Workplace Safety: Are We Risking Lives for Perfect Reports?

In Indianapolis on Wednesday, September 27th, the 2017 National Safety Council Congress & Expo took place. Throughout the weeklong event, topics such as safety in the workplace and other similar topics were discussed. One of the keynote speakers during the event was the CEO of Vancouver, British Columbia-based SAFEmap International, Corrie Pitzer who had made some eye-opening comments about safety in the workplace.

“We have made ourselves too safe for our own good,” Pitzer stated. “Because of incident-prevention engineering and a hyper focus on safety that chases “zero” incidents and awards, safety professionals have a more difficult job today than ever before. Workers, and people in general, feel too safe because of all the safeguards.”

Pitzers comments are asking the question; Are companies and employees fearful to report workplace hazards and accidents as it may tarnish a perfect record?

From companies as large as Apple, to a local pizzeria, safety and accident prevention is at the forefront of the internal dialogue. However, in a world where the public can turn on a company over an accident or possible risk, companies are now making sure that their public image is as perfect and wholesome as ever. Pitzers described the technique as “safety-washing” a company’s statistics. The technique would include an organization that fosters a culture of silence from both works and managers who are fearful of reporting incidents so the organization can earn safety goals and awards.

The idea of an award for safety is a noble concept to improve the conversation and attitude towards workplace safety, but as with a goal or award, the chance of cheating is always a possibility, even when the risk is to employees.

While none of these tactics are done with malice, an organization that ignores safety hazards or instills a fear of reporting accidents is wrong.

“There is risk secrecy,” Pitzer said. “Safety has become a good-news story.”

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