A recently released book, Ten Pathways to Death and Disaster: Learning from Fatal Incidents in Mines and Other High Hazard Workplaces by Michael Quinlan (The Federation Press) provides an interesting insight into the causative mechanisms commonly behind workplace disasters.
Working from data relating to mine disasters and fatal workplace incidents in Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the US since 1992, Quinlan identifies 10 “pattern causes” which (often in combination) explain the underlying reasons for the incidents.
These repeating causes were:
- engineering, design and maintenance flaws,
- failure to heed warning signs,
- flaws in risk assessment,
- flaws in management systems,
- flaws in system auditing,
- economic/reward pressures compromising safety,
- failures in regulatory oversight,
- worker/supervisor concerns that were ignored,
- poor worker/management communication and trust, and
- flaws in emergency and rescue procedures.
Importantly, Quinlan debunks other popular explanations for safety failures such as behaviour, culture or complex technologies.
As always, it is useful for safety practitioners and employers to be reminded that human error is rarely the true culprit; and that robust, simple and regularly reviewed safety systems based on the use of the hierarchy of control are critical to the protection of workers.
Please contact QRMC for more information.