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Johan van Deventer – Untold workplace accidents’ mysteries

Updated: Jan 24, 2022

Workplace accidents and incidents are the most common, yet most ignored source of information in the modern working world, and I am desperate to get your attention and to keep it for the next few minutes. When this reality hits you, it will change the way you see your workplace forever.

The first thing we must establish is what an accident or incident really is. Have you ever thought of that? An accident is literally an unplanned event. Just idle there for a second. Unplanned… literally meaning that something or someone in your workplace lost control! It means that something happened that you did not prepare for, did not anticipate and were not ready for!

Please do not tell me that if a worker cuts his hand, the first aid box in the corner with the small padlock and the name tag is your idea of being prepared. The truth is that if that worker cut his hand in an unplanned event, he lost control of whatever caused the cut, it could have been a hundred times worse! Simply put, if an event is unplanned, then clearly the severity and the exposure of that event is also unpredictable.

Herein lies the problem. When something like this happens in the workplace, your natural reaction can be summarised in two simple questions. Who got hurt and how bad is it? Does that sound familiar? When you are at home and you hear your child scream, but you cannot see anything from where you are, you ask the same questions. “Are you ok, and how bad is it, let me see…”

At this point you have done exactly what we do in our risk assessment systems. You are determining the exposure and the severity. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, I do the same. What follows, however, is what makes the difference…

At this point your subsequent actions, whether at home or at work is almost solely based on the answers to those two questions. If the answers are: Not serious, i.e., a small cut on the hand or your wife stepped on a Lego block, well, chaos reigns for two minutes and once the dust settles, life simply goes on. Within a few hours the entire episode is forgotten as the injuries were minor as well as the possible offence committed by not packing the Lego away or not working with gloves.

If the answers are: serious, and a limb is severed, or a cut to the head requires stitches and there is blood everywhere, well, then the situation becomes much more severe and your full attention is guaranteed. Once the initial chaos is managed, you need to investigate and establish what happened to ensure that this event does not happen again.

We launch investigations, check CCTV camera footage and we interview potential witnesses. We scrutinise risk assessments and analyse safe work procedures to establish who, what, where, when, and of course, why… Our children suddenly get helmets, knee pads and gloves for Christmas, and you find yourself checking the environment where your children play or better yet, check what they play with…

My question to you is, why do we not handle the not serious accident, with the same determination? I am willing to bet, that in many instances, you will find that there have been many not serious accidents that had occurred leading up to the serious one. You might find that many of these not serious accidents carry within them the same root causes as the serious ones!

In 2016 a staggering 313 million workplace accidents were recorded; 2.3 million of those cases resulted in someone losing their lives. Who knows what happens in undocumented factories and mines in third world countries?

Let us not fall into the category of being reactive, rather than proactive! You might be too late to save a life! Investigate every accident, no matter how small. Create a culture of near miss reporting and analyse the data.

If you do not know where to start or how to manage this, call us. LabourNet will gladly come to assist, but do not let the sun go down before you know you have done everything possible to prevent the sun from setting on your employees’ tombstones.

For more information contact LabourNet Durban

T: +27 (0)31 266 6570


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