Accidents Are No Accident.

Author:Moll, Archer I.

There is a widespread tendency to offer explanations for events that impact our lives by just snapping off some cliche. For example, it's so easy to alibi an event by saying "accidents just happen," or "it could have been avoided," or "the employee was just careless." However, using this defensive mechanism is also a sure way to guarantee that nothing ever changes.

Recently, I was engaged in a moaning session across from the "Dalai Lama" of Church Street. I was telling him that an employee of one of my clients had reported a hernia developed purportedly during the course of employment. This was the first serious workers' compensation claim the employer had in several months and I went on about my client's bad luck.

The safety guru interrupted my self-pity monologue by reminding me of the safety commandment: "Thou shall never forget that every accident is no accident."

I challenged that ancient wisdom as it related to hemia claims, noting that many physicians believe that a large percentage of hernias are genetic predispositions--in other words, inherited weak areas of the body.

He replied that if the employee had been trained properly or the work demands were not excessive, the hernia claim may never have occurred. I suppose I have to agree with him. Yes, every accident is indeed preventable (possibly an acceptable cliche). It may also be said that the insurance industry has the wrong focus when it comes to accident prevention.

Safety engineers have excellent training in detecting hazards, suggesting redesign of workplaces and processes, measuring air quality and adequacy of lighting but these components have a relatively small effect on the prevention of accidents.

I believe that almost all accidents arc the result of attitudinal errors such as lack of concentration, poor hiring criteria, inadequate training (both initial and subsequent) and/or poor morale.

Safety must somehow become the number one operating priority of any business. If it docs not. the sales effort must be intensified to equalize or exceed the drain on profitability caused by excessive workers' compensation premiums.

But unfortunately, all emphasis is on physical rather than human factors.

Perhaps that's why the system is out of whack. We have to find new ways, either through legislation or preferably underwriting criteria, to reward the enlightened and punish the unenlightened. We must get across the message that safety leads to increased profits.

If I had access to the...

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