Tuesday, September 3, 2013

RIF 2.0 – The endless injury rate debate continues

Recently Gord McDougall, general manager at a large Canadian Caterpillar dealership, chipped in on the use of injury rates and their ability to improve safety performance.

“Mike, I know we have talked about TRIF (Total Recordable Incident Frequency) being a necessary but really ineffective measurement in a high performance safety culture. I’d like to share a couple of thoughts with you:

As I travel our branches and meet with employees, one of the critical imperatives I talk to them about is zero-injury incidents. I speak to TRIF, as a rearward looking metric and often I have to explain exactly what TRIF is. Whether it’s the right path or not, we have chosen a targeted TRIF reduction strategy over time, leading to zero. So for instance our TRIF target for 2013 is 2. When I do the math backwards that means we are ‘targeting’ for 10 injuries. Let’s not debate the fact that setting a target of 10 injuries is insanity. It’s better than TRIF of 2.5 or 3.97 or 4.5 or 5.4 or 7, which is where we have come from. What I have taken to doing is briefly mentioning TRIF then turn that into ‘our injury budget.’ Everyone is familiar with budgeting. Most employees are curious if we ‘made budget’ or not each month. So instead of talking about TRIF I say ‘our injury budget for 2013 is 10.’ I pause, watch the faces contort, then add – ‘Isn’t that insane?’ I have found its one method of personalizing a metric that is only personal if you were one of the injured.

There is one other thing that has me curious. In my opinion, regardless of the personal pain, suffering and inconvenience, our society, for some reason, is accepting of injuries in the workplace – even by those that are injured. For less than permanently disabling injuries, I see people shrug them off as ‘part of the deal.’ Kind of like accepting 10,000 people a year killed by gun violence. Do you see that in your travels?”

Gord, thank you for your thoughts on this. Another recent blog article addresses some of what you mentioned. However, a little more depth on this;  I do think there is safety/injury apathy in the world we live in and people, in general, believe that injuries just happen, they are inevitable. This goes way beyond any kind of gun debate. We have about 50,000 traffic fatalities a year in the United States and there are 500+ homicides a year in Chicago alone. These statistics get little or no press. They are just not spectacular enough for the day-to-day press coverage, whereas a shooting spree gets lots of coverage.

My personal lessons from all this is that we cannot count on any of our governments to solve safety malaise, nor will the press do so, nor will companies in general. The only way to get to a zero-injury/incident culture is for local companies to mount the charge, stay in the game and take responsibility for a relentless pursuit of doing whatever it takes to stay focused on zero. You and your company are doing this and consequently have improved your injury rates dramatically, all without government intervention. The only intervention that works is upper management making safety an active principle and value while engaging all of the company employees in this effort.

Keep up the good work of using an approach that resonates with your organization and thus gets results. Your TRIF coupled with injury budget scenario and tongue-in-cheek reality has impact. It leads to personal actions that make a difference. You and I both agree injury numbers alone do not do this.

The Doc

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