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Common Causes for Accidents and Incidents – Is Management to Blame?

I recently undertook some research, prior to delivering a lecture on incidents, accidents and major incidents, with some very interesting results, which I would like to share. These results fit in quite snuggly with answering the often-asked question, “why should management be to blame for the actions of staff?”   Here, in no particular order is some very useful information.

Lack of leadership.

If leadership does not think things out in advance, find things out, take preventative action, recognise the need for budget, question and act decisively, who will?

Inadequate or no training

Some people work with part knowledge or no knowledge about the skills and practical experience to do their work safely. This is in the main, about what they actually do but it also includes awareness about the legal and moral issues. Without this in-put, they will continue to work in blissful ignorance or perhaps they will be resentful of the fact that they have not received suitable training. Worse still is the employer, from whom guidance is taken, who lacks this competence.

 Failure to assume responsibility (someone else will do it)

In a way, this links with leadership but it can include the importance of requirements for clear lines of responsibility and staff who have the confidence and support from management. Management is required to allow them to take on suitable responsibility and to provide support to them when they do so. Without this culture, the old adage of ‘everyone’s responsibility = no-one’s responsibility’ is the default.

Unsuitable and complex systems

Who wants to read or listen to complicated or over-long systems. Often there is a more efficient and quicker way. If this kind of formality is necessary, why not also simplify it with a summary or overview. I have included a little mind map above the start of this blog, which I am guessing most people will not have gone beyond. Why? You did not really need to, but thanks for doing so.

Poor communications

If your intentions are just in your head, how can anyone expect others to follow them? Perhaps what you need to make known is over-complicated, maybe it excludes people, i.e., people with literacy or hearing problems or people who cannot attend meetings etc. For Communications to work, this must also involve reception; that is, listening or reading but always – understanding. Communication is always a two-way flow. How effective and inclusive is your communications system?

 Blame culture (anyone’s fault but mine)

To be an effective in health and safety, one must try to avoid blaming others whenever possible. Without open-ness and honesty, progress will never be made. This system also works equally well for accepting advice in an open manner without it being interpreted as being blame.

Failure to learn or take in useful information from incidents

A commonly heard comment from some students and clients when we describe incidents or perhaps recent cases is to them so that they can improve their working knowledge is; ‘but we don’t do that type of work’, or ‘I don’t see how this applies to me’ or perhaps other ‘distancing’ comments. What they should probably doing is thinking deeper and also be saying is, ‘why did that happen, what can I learn and how can I avoid something like that?’

Lack of monitoring and audits

During boom periods, managers quote being too busy to monitor and audit their health and safety systems and during slack periods, they are too busy trying to promote the company. So when does it happen? If it is not programmed into safe systems of work, of course, it doesn’t. It is absolutely essential that a PLAN > DO > CHECK > ACT system is followed. Failure to follow essential this very basic yet system can have dire consequences.

 Failure to take advice or implement necessary changes (due to law, working practice etc)

The reasons are many. Commonly they are, lack of budget, lack of time, forgetfulness, lack of priority, laziness, resistance to change, cultural, ignorance and so-on. None of these reasons would be accepted of course by an injured person, the family of a deceased, a judge, coroner or clients.

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