From: "Wright, Mike" <mwright**At_Symbol_Here**USW.ORG>
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] C&EN Safety Zone blog: When is something an accident?
Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2016 15:39:17 +0000
Reply-To: DCHAS-L <DCHAS-L**At_Symbol_Here**MED.CORNELL.EDU>
Message-ID: 673A00C44C25834BA3198AADFC1EB7AE361A149A**At_Symbol_Here**PIT-MAIL01.uswa-us.local

Fair point, Allen. But I've never encountered one of our members who thinks they can avoid accountability by calling something an accident. In fact our problem is the opposite. Too many employers investigate accidents/incidents by asking who to blame, rather than what went wrong. And too many think that the answer is to discipline the offender, rather than address the root causes. Of course human error is involved in every accident or incident. (So far as I know, none of our members was ever killed by a falling meteorite.) And the error or errors may have been made by the injured worker or a co-worker, but equally by the supervisor, plant manager, engineer who designed the process, or higher up the chain, even as far as the CEO. We acknowledge human error, but in our root cause investigations we never stop there. We always ask what were the factors that led that person to make a decision or perform an act that seemed correct at the time, but turned out so wrong.    


Mike Wright


Michael J. Wright

Director of Health, Safety and Environment

United Steelworkers


412-562-2580 office

412-370-0105 cell


See us on the web at


From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**] On Behalf Of Allen Niemi
Sent: Wednesday, June 15, 2016 10:35 AM
Subject: Re: [DCHAS-L] C&EN Safety Zone blog: When is something an accident?


I'm going to take the other side on this issue. Every child born in the USA since George Washington's day understands that you will not be held accountable for something bad that happened during one of your activities if you can convince your parent(s) that it was just an "accident" and, therefore, you were not at fault. That is the common, ingrained, working definition of the word accident. I still see it come up on the section of our incident report form where you are asked for corrective actions -- "NA, it was just an accident". Most of our employees have learned the proper definition of the word accident only as a result of constant reinforcement and training. Nobody here gets away with implying that an accident was unavoidable on an injury report (or an incident without injury report) -- this will result in immediate feedback from the "safety guy". Before we became aggressive about this educational process an accident was unavoidable in the eyes of the average employee. We have not called our reports "accident reports" for decades, if ever, and I sincerely believe we should stop calling traffic crashes accidents. It's not about semantics, it's about raising awareness.




On Wed, Jun 15, 2016 at 10:05 AM, Zack Mansdorf <mansdorfz**At_Symbol_Here**> wrote:

Very well said Mike.  Everyone understands what accident means.  Only the "safety gurus" that are politically correct have any idea of what an incident means (lawn sprinkler does not work?).


Let's quit the obtuse definitions and replace it with the common usage.




S.Z. Mansdorf, Ph.D., CIH, CSP, QEP

Center for Safety & Health Sustainability






Allen Niemi, PhD
Occupational Safety and Health Services
Room 322 Lakeshore Center
Michigan Technological University
Phone: 906-487-2118
Fax:     906-487-3048

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