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How can root-cause analysis protect workers?

As an employee in Kansas, how many times have you or your colleagues had near misses in which you could have lost your lives if something had happened a moment sooner or later, or if you had taken one more step? Safety advisors believe business owners can eliminate many hazards in the workplace by studying these incidents. Root-cause analysis is the process of determining the origin of the near-miss incident and then including appropriate precautions in the company's safety protocols to prevent repetitions.

Not only can this process save the company money by potentially avoiding costly claims and lost production, but it can also save the lives of employees or prevent debilitating injuries. Too many families suffer the consequences of preventable workplace accidents that take the lives of their loved ones or send them home with permanent disabilities.

What are the fundamental principles of root-cause analysis?

Regardless of the strategies used to examine near misses, the object must be the ultimate ability to prevent repeat occurrences, which--next time--might not be a near-miss incident but a tragedy. Here are four do's and don'ts that might contribute to the success of the project:

  • Avoid the urge to blame someone -- This is an essential component of this analysis. An attitude of seeking someone to blame may jeopardize the investigation. Vital information may not surface if employees fear being blamed. Workplace accidents are typically the culmination of multiple factors, all of which could become apparent while working to establish the root of the problem.
  • Recognize the importance of "why" -- Do not hold back on questioning why. If an employee fell off a ladder, the initial answer to the question may be that one of the steps broke. However, further questioning could reveal that the worker did not realize that the heavy equipment he was carrying caused him to exceed the weight limit for the ladder. Subsequent "why" questions might reveal a lack of safety training and the fact that the equipment needed to hoist the worker wasn't readily available.
  • Dig deeper -- Don't stop at the obvious facts. Include underlying facts such as the training, the work environment, equipment maintenance along with human aspects such as fatigue or performance pressure in the study.
  • Do in-depth analysis -- The ultimate goal of the analysis must be to bring about changes that will prevent similar incidents. Changes might be necessary for procedures, policies and training. The worker who fell off the ladder might have escaped smashing his head against the floor had his training been adequate. If the condition of the ladder was the cause, then certain equipment might need upgrading. Finally, this incident might show that unreasonable performance pressure cause employees to endanger their lives by rushing.

Your employer might recognize the importance of including workers in root-cause analysis. Employees who feel they are part of the process to create a safer workplace will be more apt to be on the lookout for potential dangers. By eliminating safety hazards, the company, you and your co-workers could avoid the financial consequences of workplace injuries.

Fewer injuries as a result of this type of program should bring about fewer claims; however, Kansas workers' compensation insurance offers benefits to cover the medical expenses of injured workers when these unfortunate events do occur. If you need to navigate a claim for benefits, an experienced workers' comp attorney can help provide you with much-needed peace of mind while ensuring you receive all compensation to which you are entitled.

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