I see another aspect of the word "incident" that addresses documentation. If an institution is doing safety culture right, they are documenting and learning from incidents that are not necessarily "accidents." For example:
A middle school teacher has her class working on a lab for the first part of class, then back at their seats analyzing data for the second half. As students are working at their seats, she notices a large puddle of water in the lab on the floor. She has the class discuss what could have happened (somebody falling, injuring themselves, possibly several). This is an incident - but not an accident. However, if it is documented (to include details that nobody was injured, etc) the ultimate good that can result is that an "accident" might be prevented.
By this model, accidents are an "incident." Drills are another kind of "incident." The kinds that are unplanned but don't result in damage might be "other."
The important point here, though, is documentation for the purpose of improvement. If that doesn't occur, it really doesn't matter what word we use - the lawsuit will take care of the verbage for us.
Edward J. McGrath
Supervisor of Science
Red Clay Consolidated School District
1502 Spruce Avenue
Wilmington DE 19805
We did not inherit the Earth from our ancestors. We borrowed it from our children.
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.
Michael J. Wright
Director of Health, Safety and Environment
See us on the web atwww.usw.org
From: DCHAS-L Discussion List [mailto:dchas-l**At_Symbol_Here**med.cornell.edu]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**bellsouth.net> 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
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