Kevin Ian Schmidt

Machine Guarding and the loss of Chevron Deference

Here is the next in my series where I examine the effect the loss of Chevron deference could have on OSHA standards and workplace safety, this week we are reviewing Machine Guarding.

If you missed it, here is my article on PPE and the loss of Chevron Deference. The whole series is centered around understanding what it means to workplace safety to lose Chevron deference, and the risk to workers from workplaces that don’t care about employees.


OSHA standard 1910.212 pertains to general requirements for all machines, specifically machine guarding. This standard aims to protect employees from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips, and sparks. However, certain aspects of this standard are ambiguous and have required clarifications through OSHA letters of interpretation. Here are some of the common areas of ambiguity and the issues that frequently require interpretation:

  • General Nature of the Requirements:
    • The standard establishes broad requirements for machine guarding but fails to provide specific details on how to implement these requirements across different machines and operational contexts. This lack of precision can create significant uncertainty for employers trying to determine what specific guarding methods are considered compliant. Without clear, detailed guidance, businesses may find it challenging to apply the general principles of the standard to their unique machinery and operational circumstances. This ambiguity can lead to varied interpretations and implementations of guarding measures, potentially resulting in inconsistent safety practices and compliance issues across different workplaces. As a result, employers may struggle to ensure that their machine guarding methods meet OSHA’s expectations, potentially putting workers at risk, and OSHA would not have a recourse to address the hazard in the workplace outside of a lengthy court proceeding.
  • Definition of “Point of Operation”:
    • The term “point of operation” denotes the specific area on a machine where work is performed on the material being processed. However, the exact boundaries and characteristics of this area are not clearly defined, which can lead to varying interpretations. This ambiguity can make it difficult for employers to determine precisely what constitutes the point of operation for different types of machinery. As a result, there may be inconsistencies in how this critical area is identified and guarded, leading to potential safety risks. Without a clear, universally accepted definition, businesses might implement differing safety measures, potentially resulting in non-compliance with OSHA standards and varying levels of protection for workers. This lack of clarity necessitates further guidance to ensure that employers can effectively and uniformly identify and guard the point of operation to maintain a safe working environment.
  • Criteria for Guard Effectiveness:
    • OSHA 1910.212 mandates that guards be “affixed to the machine where possible” and designed to prevent employees from having any part of their body in the danger zone during operation. However, the standard does not provide precise criteria for what constitutes an effective guard, leading to significant ambiguity. This vagueness can result in uncertainty for employers trying to comply with the regulation, as they must determine on their own what types of guards will sufficiently protect employees from the hazards associated with specific machines. The absence of clear, detailed guidelines means that interpretations can vary widely, potentially leading to inconsistent implementations of guarding measures across different workplaces. This lack of specificity not only complicates the task of ensuring compliance but also poses a risk to worker safety, as improperly guarded machines may fail to provide the necessary protection. Clearer criteria are needed to guide employers in selecting and installing effective machine guards, thereby enhancing workplace safety and regulatory compliance.
  • Variety of Machines and Hazards:
    • Given the wide range of machinery covered under this standard, it can be challenging to determine the appropriate type of guarding for specific machines and hazards. This diversity necessitates a more tailored approach, which the standard itself does not provide.
Check Out: Machine Guarding Basics

Clarifications from OSHA Letters of Interpretation

OSHA has issued several letters of interpretation to address these ambiguities. Here are some key points clarified through these letters:

  • Specific Guarding Requirements:
    • OSHA has provided more detailed guidance on acceptable guarding methods for different types of machinery. For example, certain letters explain how to guard specific machines like press brakes, conveyors, and woodworking machinery.
  • Point of Operation Guarding:
    • Clarifications have been made regarding what constitutes adequate point of operation guarding. OSHA has emphasized that guards must not only prevent contact with the danger zone but also be designed and installed in a way that does not create additional hazards.
  • Guard Effectiveness Criteria:
    • OSHA has outlined criteria for what makes a guard effective, such as being secure, preventing access to the danger zone, and being constructed of durable materials. The interpretation letters often provide examples of compliant guards and non-compliant ones.
  • Alternative Guarding Methods:
    • In cases where standard guarding is not feasible, OSHA letters have discussed acceptable alternative methods, such as the use of electronic safety devices, two-hand controls, and safety distance measures. These alternatives must provide equivalent protection to traditional guards.
  • Maintenance and Adjustment of Guards:
    • OSHA has clarified that guards must be maintained in good condition and adjusted appropriately to ensure continued protection. This includes regular inspections and repairs as needed.


The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Chevron deference casts a shadow over OSHA’s ability to enforce machine guarding regulations. While the core standards will likely remain, the interpretation and enforcement process faces significant hurdles. Increased litigation, conflicting court rulings, and the potential for a legislative overhaul of machine guarding regulations are all on the horizon.

This new landscape presents challenges for both employers and employees. Employers will need to closely monitor legal developments and ensure their machine guarding practices comply with the strictest interpretations of existing regulations.

The path forward for machine guarding regulations remains uncertain. However, one thing is clear: the importance of safeguarding workers from machinery hazards hasn’t diminished. Stakeholders across the board – employers, employees, advocacy groups, and lawmakers – will need to work together to navigate this new environment and ensure the continued safety of America’s

Emergency Action Plans Explained

How would your employees escape from the workplace in an emergency?

Do they know where all the exits are in case their first choice is too crowded?

Are you sure the doors will be unlocked and the exit route, such as a hallway, will not be blocked during a fire, explosion, or other crisis?

Knowing the answers to these questions could keep your employees safe during an emergency.

An emergency action plan (EAP) is a written document required by OSHA standard 1910.38. The purpose of an EAP is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies.

Well-developed emergency plans and proper employee training (such that employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan) will result in fewer and less severe employee injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies. A poorly prepared plan, likely will lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, and property damage.

Check out the Safety Whitepaper, Developing an Emergency Action Program here

Emergency action plans must be written. However, for smaller companies, the plan does not need to be written and may be communicated orally if there are 10 or fewer employees. It is recommended that all employers have a written emergency action plan for optimal safety.

Check out the Post: Are Emergency Action Plans Really Necessary?

OSHA Requirements for Emergency Action Plans

At a minimum, the plan must include but is not limited to the following elements:

  • Means of reporting fires and other emergencies,
  • Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments,
  • Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate,
  • Accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed,
  • Rescue and medical duties for employees performing them, and
  • Names or job titles of persons who can be contacted.

Although they are not specifically required by OSHA, employers may find it helpful to include the following in the EAP:

  • A description of the alarm system to be used to notify employees (including disabled employees) to evacuate and/or take other actions. The alarms used for different actions should be distinctive and might include horn blasts, sirens, or even public address systems.
  • The site of an alternative communications center to be used in the event of a fire or explosion.
  • A secure on- or offsite location to store originals or duplicate copies of accounting records, legal documents, your employees’ emergency contact lists, and other essential records.

Evacuation policies, procedures, and escape route assignments are put into place so that employees understand who is authorized to order an evacuation, under what conditions an evacuation would be necessary, how to evacuate, and what routes to take. Exit diagrams are typically used to identify the escape routes to be followed by employees from each specific facility location.

Evacuation procedures also often describe actions employees should take before and while evacuating such as shutting windows, turning off equipment, and closing doors behind them.

Under the typical EAP, the employer will expect all employees to evacuate in an emergency. However, sometimes a critical decision may need to be made when planning – whether employees should be trained and responsible for extinguishing small (controllable) fires.

A disorganized evacuation can result in confusion, injury, and property damage. When developing the emergency action plan, it is important to determine the following:

  • conditions under which an evacuation would be necessary.
  • conditions under which it may be better to shelter-in-place.
  • a clear chain of command and designation of the person in your business authorized to order an evacuation or shutdown.
  • specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits.
  • specific evacuation procedures for high-rise buildings for employers and employees.
  • procedures for assisting visitors and employees to evacuate, particularly those with disabilities or who do not speak English.
  • designation of what, if any, employees will remain after the evacuation alarm to shut down critical operations or perform other duties before evacuating.
  • a means of accounting for employees after an evacuation.
  • special equipment for employees.
  • appropriate respirators.

During development and implementation of a draft plan, think about all possible emergency situations and evaluate the workplace to see if it complies with OSHA’s emergency standards.

Exit Routes

Normally, a workplace must have at least two exit routes to permit prompt evacuation of employees and other building occupants during an emergency. More than two exits are required if the number of employees, size of the building, or arrangement of the workplace will not allow employees to evacuate safely. Exit routes must be located as far away from each other as practical in case one exit is blocked by fire or smoke.

Exception: If the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace allows all employees to evacuate safely during an emergency, one exit route is permitted.

Most employers create maps from floor diagrams with arrows that designate the exit route assignments. These maps should include locations of exits, assembly points, and equipment (such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, spill kits) that may be needed in an emergency. Exit routes should be:

  • clearly marked and well lit,
  • wide enough to accommodate the number of evacuating personnel,
  • unobstructed and clear of debris at all times, and
  • unlikely to expose evacuating personnel to additional hazards.

When preparing drawings that show evacuation routes and exits, post them prominently for all employees to see. See OSHA’s Interactive Floorplan Demonstration.

Accounting for Employees

Procedures to account for employees after the evacuation to ensure that everyone got out may include designating employees to sweep areas, checking offices and restrooms before being the last to leave a workplace or conducting a roll call in the assembly area. Evacuation wardens can be helpful in accounting for employees. To ensure the fastest, most accurate accounting of employees, consider including these steps in the EAP:

  • Designate assembly areas or areas Assembly areas, both inside and outside the workplace, are the locations where employees gather after evacuating.
    • Internal assembly areas within the building are often referred to as “areas of refuge.” Make sure the assembly area has sufficient space to accommodate all employees.
    • Exterior assembly areas, used when the building must be partially or completely evacuated, are typically located in parking lots or other open areas away from busy streets. Try and designate assembly areas so that employees will be up-wind of the building.
  • Take a head count after the evacuation. Accounting for all employees following an evacuation is critical. Identify the names and last known locations of anyone not accounted for and pass them to the official in charge.
  • Assembly area design. When designating an assembly area, consider (and try to minimize) the possibility of employees interfering with rescue operations.
  • Account for others. Establish a method for accounting for non-employees such as suppliers and customers.
  • Additional evacuation. Establish procedures for further evacuation in case the incident expands. This may consist of sending employees home by normal means or providing them with transportation to an offsite location.

PPE and the loss of Chevron Deference

Here is the next in my series where I examine the effect the loss of Chevron deference could have on OSHA standards and workplace safety, this week we are reviewing PPE.

OSHA 1910.132, which covers personal protective equipment (PPE), often contains ambiguities that necessitate further clarification. Here are some of the common areas of ambiguity and the issues that frequently require interpretation:

  • Assessment of Workplace Hazards:
    • Employers are required to perform a hazard assessment to determine the necessity of personal protective equipment (PPE), yet the standard does not offer detailed criteria or methodologies for carrying out these assessments. This lack of specificity can create considerable uncertainty regarding what qualifies as a sufficient or adequate hazard assessment. Without clear guidelines on how to systematically evaluate workplace hazards, employers may struggle to ensure that their assessments are thorough and compliant. This ambiguity can lead to inconsistencies in how hazard assessments are performed, potentially resulting in varying levels of protection and compliance across different workplaces. Consequently, employers might find it challenging to ascertain whether their assessment processes meet the required standards, which could impact their ability to effectively safeguard employees and adhere to regulatory requirements.
    • Here you can read the 1910 statute on hazard assessments, and without Chevron deference, you can see how there is much left to interpretation.
Check Out: PPE Hazard Assessment and Certification
  • Selection of Appropriate PPE:
    • The standard stipulates that personal protective equipment (PPE) must be “appropriate” for the tasks and hazards identified in the workplace. However, the term “appropriate” can be somewhat vague and open to interpretation, leading to uncertainty about what constitutes the right type of PPE in various situations. This ambiguity can give rise to questions regarding the specific type of PPE required, as well as its material, durability, and overall suitability for the identified hazards. Employers may find it challenging to determine which PPE will offer adequate protection under the specific conditions they face, potentially leading to difficulties in ensuring that employees are properly safeguarded. The lack of precise criteria for what qualifies as appropriate PPE can result in inconsistencies in protective measures and compliance practices, making it harder to achieve uniform safety standards across different workplaces.
    • Just looking at 1910.138 PPE: hand protection, look at how vague the standard is, then when you factor in  1910.132(b)

      Employee-owned equipment. Where employees provide their own protective equipment, the employer shall be responsible to assure its adequacy, including proper maintenance, and sanitation of such equipment.

      Check Out: PPE Selection and Usage Guide
  • Training Requirements:
    • Employers are required to provide training to employees on the use, maintenance, and limitations of personal protective equipment (PPE). However, the standard does not specify the extent or depth of this training, leading to a lack of clarity about how comprehensive the training should be and the frequency with which it should be conducted. This ambiguity can result in confusion for employers about how to structure their training programs to meet regulatory requirements effectively. As a consequence, there may be variations in the quality and thoroughness of the training provided, which could impact employees’ understanding of how to properly use and maintain their PPE. Without clear guidelines, employers might struggle to ensure that their training is sufficiently detailed and regularly updated, potentially affecting the overall safety and compliance within the workplace.
    • Check out how 1910.132(f) is written,  it provides basic guidelines on PPE training requirements but not that training can be delivered. Would a basic printed sheet, hung on an information board suffice? That would be up to both sides in a case presenting their experts to discuss, then a judge or jury making a decision.
    • In 2010 OSHA issued a memorandum to clarify OSHA’s stance on delivering a training in the language understood by employees, since then OSHA has treated this as guidance for when to view training as not proper, which means  without Chevron deference, this could mean workplaces are no longer required to provide training in a language employees understand. While banning English-only rules in the workplace are codified with 29 C.F.R. § 1606.7(b) this ruling allows exemptions for “promotion of safety”, which could be argued in a court as related to safety training.
Check Out: The Basics of PPE Training
  • Maintenance and Replacement of PPE:
    • The standard mandates that personal protective equipment (PPE) must be kept in a sanitary and reliable condition. However, it falls short of providing specific guidelines on maintenance procedures and replacement schedules for PPE. This lack of detailed direction can create significant uncertainty for employers regarding the appropriate methods and timelines for cleaning, repairing, or replacing PPE. Without clear instructions, employers may face challenges in establishing effective maintenance routines, which could lead to variations in how PPE is managed across different workplaces. This ambiguity can result in inconsistent practices, potentially compromising the effectiveness of PPE and the safety of employees. As a result, employers might struggle to ensure that PPE remains in optimal condition and continues to provide adequate protection as intended.


  • Employer and Employee Responsibilities:
    • There is often confusion regarding the division of responsibilities between employers and employees when it comes to personal protective equipment (PPE). Specifically, questions can arise about who is responsible for various aspects of PPE management, such as providing the equipment, ensuring its proper use, and maintaining it. For instance, employers generally bear the responsibility of providing PPE at no cost to employees, but there may be uncertainty about whether they are also responsible for training employees on the correct use of PPE and for maintaining the equipment in good condition. On the other hand, employees are expected to use the PPE as intended and to report any issues with it. This delineation of responsibilities can sometimes be unclear, leading to potential gaps in compliance and safety. The lack of explicit guidance on these responsibilities can result in inconsistent practices and confusion about who should address specific issues related to PPE, ultimately affecting the overall effectiveness of the safety measures in place.
    • The OSHA order that mandated PPE be paid for by employers can from an OSHA final rule determination in 2008, which is not a codified law, so without Chevron deference, the determination of who pays for PPE could be determined by a judge, leading to employees buying PPE which may not be up to proper standard or worse employers may use this as a way to increase profits by adding margin to the cost. Now 1910.132(b)  states “Where employees provide their own protective equipment, the employer shall be responsible to assure its adequacy, including proper maintenance, and sanitation of such equipment.”, so the employer would be required to assure it’s adequacy, which again leaves open interpretation as to what that means. I was once employed in a workplace that said “cut gloves must be worn”, would that be accepted as “adequate” by a judge?


  • Enforcement and Compliance:
    • Employers might find themselves uncertain about how OSHA will enforce particular provisions of the standard and what constitutes adequate evidence of compliance during inspections. This uncertainty arises because the application and enforcement of OSHA regulations can vary based on interpretation and the specifics of each case. Employers may struggle to understand the precise requirements for demonstrating compliance, such as the documentation or practices OSHA expects to see during an inspection. This can lead to confusion about how to prepare for and manage inspections, potentially impacting their ability to meet regulatory expectations fully. As a result, employers may be concerned about whether they have the right systems in place and whether their efforts to comply with the standards will be recognized as sufficient by OSHA inspectors. This ambiguity can affect how effectively employers can align their practices with regulatory requirements and prepare for potential audits or enforcement actions.
Check Out: OSHA and the loss of Chevron Deference

As you can see, the loss of Chevron deference introduces significant uncertainty in the enforcement of PPE regulations in the workplace. Without Chevron deference, courts are no longer obligated to defer to OSHA’s interpretations of ambiguous statutory provisions. This change can result in inconsistent judicial decisions, making it harder for employers to understand and comply with PPE requirements. Consequently, this legal ambiguity can lead to workplaces becoming unsafe, as employers may struggle to determine the appropriate PPE measures needed to protect their employees. Furthermore, until more precise and stricter legislation is enacted to clarify these requirements, there may be limited remedies available to bring unsafe workplaces into compliance. This gap in regulatory clarity could potentially compromise worker safety and hinder effective enforcement of PPE standards.

OSHA and the loss of Chevron Deference

In a significant departure from precedent, the Supreme Court overturned the Chevron doctrine in a 6-3 decision. Established in 1984’s Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council, the doctrine instructed courts to defer to reasonable agency interpretations of ambiguous laws. Chief Justice John Roberts’ 35-page opinion deemed the Chevron doctrine “fundamentally misguided” and rejected its application in future cases.

“Today, the court places a tombstone on Chevron no one can miss,” wrote Justice Neil Gorsuch, one of the court’s most conservative members.

By ending Chevron deference, the US Supreme Court has significantly reduced the power of federal agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency and Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The repercussions of this landmark decision will be felt across the federal government, but I am best qualified to talk on the impacts to OSHA. Let’s examine how we arrived to a place where OSHA and the EPA may be cutting protections.

What was the Supreme Court case about?

While “Chevron deference” might sound like a chess strategy, it refers to the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Chevron v. Natural Resources Defense Council. In 1984, the court ruled that judges should defer to federal agencies when interpreting ambiguous parts of statutes.

The idea was that if Congress passed a law with unclear provisions or gaps, it was up to the agency to fill in those gaps. In practice, this allowed federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to create and implement rules without the fear of prolonged legal battles. OSHA letters of interpretation are a great example of this sort of clarification and decision making.

Then, in 2020, the case of herring fishermen emerged. That year, the Trump administration mandated that fishermen cover the costs of taking federal monitors on their fishing trips. The vessels had no choice; it was illegal to fish without these monitors on board to oversee the Atlantic fishery, spanning from Maine to North Carolina.

Commercial fishing companies, supported by conservative and corporate groups including billionaire Charles Koch, sued in two separate cases. In one case, a federal judge ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service could legally impose the costs under Chevron deference.

Impact on OSHA Letters of Interpretation:

With Chevron overturned it will have significant implications for OSHA’s letters of interpretation and agency interpretations more broadly This could reduce their effectiveness as a tool for clarifying regulatory requirements and providing compliance assistance. Let’s look at some of the other issues around the OSHA letters of interpretations:

  1. Reduced Judicial Deference:
    • Without Chevron deference, courts would no longer be required to defer to OSHA’s interpretations of ambiguous statutory provisions. Instead, courts would take on the responsibility of independently interpreting the statutory language. This change could lead to a variety of judicial conclusions that may differ significantly from OSHA’s established interpretations. Consequently, this new approach could create inconsistencies in how workplace safety regulations are applied and enforced, potentially leading to a more fragmented and unpredictable regulatory environment.
  2. Increased Legal Uncertainty:
    • If courts are no longer deferring to OSHA’s interpretations, there could be increased variability in the application and enforcement of OSHA standards. This shift in judicial approach could result in differing interpretations of the same regulatory provisions across various jurisdictions. Consequently, employers and employees may face significant legal uncertainty as they attempt to understand and comply with OSHA regulations. Without consistent guidance from the courts, it may become more challenging to determine the correct course of action to ensure compliance with workplace safety standards, potentially leading to a patchwork of interpretations and enforcement practices that vary from one court to another.
  3. More Frequent Legal Challenges:
    • Employers and other stakeholders might be more inclined to challenge OSHA’s interpretations in court, knowing that courts are no longer required to defer to OSHA’s expertise. This newfound judicial independence could embolden parties to dispute OSHA’s regulatory decisions more frequently, leading to a substantial increase in litigation. As a result, there is a greater likelihood of courts issuing rulings that overturn OSHA’s interpretations. This potential surge in legal challenges and subsequent court decisions could undermine OSHA’s regulatory authority and create an environment of uncertainty and inconsistency regarding the enforcement of workplace safety standards. The increased litigation might also strain judicial resources and prolong the resolution of disputes, further complicating compliance efforts for employers and leaving employees in a state of flux regarding their safety protections.

This shift introduces increased legal uncertainty for both employers and employees as they navigate the complexities of compliance without the previously clear guidance provided by OSHA’s interpretations. The likelihood of more frequent and prolonged litigation rises, as stakeholders may challenge OSHA’s decisions in court more readily, knowing that courts are no longer bound to defer to the agency’s interpretations.

Moreover, this decision signals a possible shift towards more detailed and prescriptive legislation from Congress. With agencies like OSHA facing limitations on their interpretive authority, there may be greater pressure on legislators to draft clearer, more specific laws to ensure that regulatory intentions are unambiguous and enforceable without the need for agency interpretation.

Overall, the removal of Chevron deference marks a significant change in the regulatory environment, potentially reshaping how workplace safety laws are created, interpreted, and enforced in the future.

The Business of Safety

There are two methods often used to assess business risks, quantitative and qualitative. According to research, most businesses utilize the quantitative assessment model in order to identify and categorize probable problems with their business practices. A quantitative risk assessment approach means that numbers are used to calculate and predict hazards. Each hazard is then prioritized according to the level of their risk value. The higher the risk value, the higher it is in the priority totem pole.

On the other hand, a qualitative risk assessment uses characteristics of each scenario to determine a course of action. Unlike the quantitative approach, the qualitative methodology of risk assessment can be subjective and require more work than the former.

Crunching Numbers of Risk

To determine the value of risk (R), two critical components—loss (L) and probability (p)—are calculated to arrive at a final numerical value. The component loss (L) represents the amount of loss incurred in the event of an accident, encompassing everything from financial costs to physical damages and injuries. The probability (p) component refers to the likelihood or chance of a specific scenario occurring. Multiplying these two values (L and p) provides the product (R), which represents an objective assessment of potential risks.

Quantitative risk assessments are particularly useful in complex situations, where they can offer a clear, numerical representation of risk. These situations often involve severe consequences, such as the potential loss of life, damage to machinery, and significant environmental impacts. By using quantitative methods, organizations can make more informed decisions about risk management and mitigation strategies, ensuring that all potential hazards are thoroughly evaluated and addressed.

Check Out: How to Conduct a Risk Assessment

Success and Losses Based on Tested and Quantified Statistics

Critics of this practice have expressed concerns about its reductive and purely numerical nature. Notable figures such as Barry Commoner and Bryan Wynne have criticized its reductive approach, arguing that it fails to capture the nuanced differentiation available in qualitative risk assessments. These detractors maintain that numerical values cannot fully describe hazard scenarios as effectively because they often omit the human element, which is crucial for understanding the broader context and implications of risks.

However, while these criticisms have merit, qualitative risk assessments can be time-consuming and costly. In contrast, quantitative methods provide a more efficient way to evaluate potential hazards in the workplace, offering sufficient breadth and definition through statistical analysis. Quantitative assessments are particularly beneficial in scenarios where clear patterns and historical data exist, as they can provide a more objective and streamlined evaluation of risks. This objectivity often makes quantitative analysis superior to the more tedious and subjective nature of qualitative assessments, particularly in environments where swift and clear decision-making is essential.

Qualitative Risk Analysis

The purpose of qualitative risk analysis is to identify which risks require detailed analysis and to determine the necessary controls and actions based on the risks’ effects and impacts on objectives. This approach is particularly useful for prioritizing risks and developing an initial response strategy. Two simple and well-known methods are commonly applied in qualitative risk analysis:

1. Keep It Super Simple (KISS)

The KISS method is ideal for small or narrowly scoped projects where unnecessary complexity should be avoided. This approach is especially beneficial for teams that lack maturity or extensive experience in assessing risk. The KISS method involves a straightforward, one-dimensional technique for rating risk on a basic scale, such as:

  • Very High
  • High
  • Medium
  • Low
  • Very Low

By keeping the assessment simple, teams can quickly identify and categorize risks without becoming overwhelmed by intricate details, ensuring that even less experienced teams can effectively participate in the risk management process.

2. Probability/Impact Analysis

The Probability/Impact method is suited for larger, more complex projects and issues, involving teams with experience in risk assessments. This two-dimensional technique rates risks based on two key factors:

  • Probability: The likelihood that a risk will occur.
  • Impact: The consequence or effect of the risk, typically related to its impact on schedule, cost, scope, and quality.

In this method, both probability and impact are rated using a numerical scale, such as 1 to 10 or 1 to 5. The risk score is then calculated by multiplying the probability rating by the impact rating. For example, a risk with a probability of 3 (on a scale of 1 to 5) and an impact of 4 would have a risk score of 12.

This method allows for a more nuanced assessment of risks, enabling teams to prioritize risks based on their potential severity and likelihood. It helps ensure that resources are allocated to address the most significant risks first, improving the overall effectiveness of the risk management process.

Benefits of Qualitative Risk Analysis

By employing these methods, qualitative risk analysis provides several advantages:

  • Prioritization: Helps identify which risks need immediate attention and which can be monitored or addressed later.
  • Simplicity and Accessibility: The KISS method makes risk assessment accessible to all team members, regardless of their experience level.
  • Comprehensive Evaluation: The Probability/Impact method offers a detailed evaluation, suitable for complex projects with multiple stakeholders.

Overall, qualitative risk analysis is a vital tool in the risk management toolkit, offering both simplicity for straightforward projects and depth for more complex scenarios. It ensures that risks are systematically identified, assessed, and managed, aligning with project objectives and organizational goals.

Quantitative Risk Analysis

Quantitative risk analysis is an advanced method used to evaluate high-priority and high-impact risks by assigning numerical or quantitative ratings. This approach develops a probabilistic assessment of business-related issues, translating the probability and impact of risks into measurable quantities. Its application is more limited and depends on factors such as the type of project, project risk, and the availability of relevant data for analysis.

Purpose and Benefits

The primary purpose of quantitative risk analysis is to provide a detailed, measurable evaluation of risks. This method:

  • Quantifies Outcomes: It quantifies the possible outcomes for business issues and assesses the probability of achieving specific business objectives.
  • Supports Decision-Making: It provides a quantitative approach to making decisions in the face of uncertainty.
  • Sets Realistic Targets: It creates realistic and achievable cost, schedule, or scope targets.


Quantitative risk analysis is particularly useful in several contexts, including:

  • Schedule and Budget Control: Essential for business situations that require meticulous schedule and budget control planning.
  • Complex Projects: Ideal for large, complex issues or projects that require critical go/no-go decisions.
  • Management Insights: Valuable for business processes or issues where upper management demands detailed information about the probability of on-time and within-budget completion.


The advantages of using quantitative risk analysis are numerous:

  • Objectivity: Provides an objective assessment of risks.
  • Management Tool: Serves as a powerful selling tool to management by clearly illustrating risks and benefits.
  • Cost/Benefit Projection: Allows for direct projection of cost and benefit, aiding in financial planning.
  • Flexibility: Can be tailored to meet the needs of specific situations and industries.
  • Reduced Disagreement: Less likely to provoke disagreements during management reviews, as it is based on quantifiable data.
  • Fact-Based Analysis: Often derived from irrefutable facts, enhancing the credibility of the analysis.

In summary, quantitative risk analysis is a robust tool for evaluating risks in a structured, numerical manner. It supports informed decision-making, realistic target setting, and provides a clear, objective view of potential outcomes, making it indispensable for complex projects and situations where precise risk assessment is crucial.

Minimizing Loss

Quantitative risk assessments are not absolute, despite their seemingly definitive nature. The quantities attributed to loss (L) and probability (p) are not entirely fixed or certain, and as these values increase, there is a higher risk of arriving at inaccurate conclusions. However, with accurate data and careful calculation, predicting potential outcomes and associated costs is a risk worth taking for any business.

The quantitative method assigns a numerical value to signify “risk,” yet it is important to recognize that not all hazards are equivalent. Different scenarios can yield the same risk value; for example, a scenario with a low loss and high probability versus one with a high loss and low probability. In such cases, businesses must conduct a feasibility study to determine which hazard requires immediate action. Typically, businesses prioritize scenarios where the overall loss is minimal, ensuring that resources are allocated efficiently to mitigate risks.

Quantitative risk assessments provide a clear and tangible representation of risk. By assigning numerical values to potential hazards, solutions can also be quantified. This approach allows business owners and investors to rely less on trial-and-error methods, which could incur additional losses if unsuccessful. Using equations to determine the probability of failure and success offers a structured and data-driven approach to risk management, facilitating more informed decision-making and potentially reducing the overall impact of risks.

Low-Cost High-Reward Investment

Implementing safety precautions at work should be at an overall low-cost and high-reward situation. By using numerical data to determine which course of action is the most beneficial, business can get ahead of the risk game and actually win. In this case winning means minimal losses and increase in business profitability.

Check out the slideshow of the Business of Safety

The Business of Safety


Corrective Actions

It’s important to divide your recommended corrective actions into the categories below:

  1. Immediate or short-term corrective actions to eliminate or reduce the hazardous conditions and/or unsafe behaviors related to the accident.
  2. Long-term system improvements to create or revise existing safety policies, programs, plans, processes, procedures and practices identified as missing or inadequate in the investigation.


High Priority Strategies that Eliminate the Hazards

1. Elimination: Totally eliminate the hazard. Why is this control strategy our top priority and considered by OSHA to be most effective? This control strategy has the potential to completely remove the hazard. We’re somehow changing a thing/condition in the workplace. And as we all know…

No hazard, no exposure = no accident.

2. Substitution: Substitute the hazard with a less hazardous condition, process or method. Some basic examples are substituting a toxic chemical with a non-toxic chemical or replacing an old poorly-designed machine with a new model.

3. Engineering controls: See if any of the strategies below are used in your workplace.

  • Design: Example – Design a tool so that it reduces the likelihood of a strain or sprain.
  • Redesign: Example – Change the design of a machine so that dangerous moving parts or electrical circuits are out of reach.
  • Enclosure: Examples – Place a hood over a noisy printer. Place a machine guard around a dangerous moving part.

These are the first to parts of the Hierarchy of Controls


Recommend System Improvements

This episode of “Safe in 60 Seconds” InterAct Safety Solution shares some tips on incident investigation – sustainable corrective actions.

The surface causes for accidents actually represent the symptoms of underlying safety management system weaknesses. This cause-effect relationship is so important to understand that I’ll say it again: the behaviors and conditions that caused the accident are, themselves, usually the effects of deeper root causes. This is a fact.

Consequently, your first assumption, as an accident investigator, should be that root causes have contributed to an accident, and your job is to find them. Your first basic assumption should never be that an accident is simply the result of surface causes. Once in a while, you’ll find that an accident was solely the result of a “personal failure,” but that won’t be often: in fact, it will be rare in most organizations.

Learn more about Root Cause Analysis

Therefore, make every effort to improve safety management system components to ensure long term workplace safety in your company. As we learned in the last module, the most successful accident investigator is actually a systems analyst. Making safety management system improvements might include some of the following examples:

  • including “safety” in a mission statement;
  • improving safety policy so that it clearly establishes responsibility and accountability;
  • changing a work process so that checklists are used that include safety checks;
  • including hands-on practice as part of the safety training program;
  • revising purchasing policy to include safety considerations as well as cost; and
  • changing the safety inspection process to include all supervisors and employees.

Check Out: Incident Investigation: Top 10 Mistakes

Answer the following six questions to help develop and justify recommendations.

1. What exactly is the problem?

  • What are the specific hazardous conditions and unsafe work practices that caused the problem?
  • What are system components – the inadequate design or implementation of safety management programs, policies, plans, processes, procedures and general practices that allowed the conditions and behaviors to exist?

2. What is the history of the problem?

Have similar accidents occurred previously? If so, you should be able to claim that the probability for similar accidents is highly likely to occur.

  • What are previous direct and indirect costs for similar accidents?
  • How have similar accidents affected production and morale?
  • Describe how it has affected direct, budgeted or insured costs related to past injuries or illnesses.
  • How has it affected indirect, unbudgeted or uninsured costs related to loss of efficiency and/or productivity and employee morale?

3. What are the solutions that would correct the problem?

  • What are the specific engineering, administrative and PPE controls that, when applied, will eliminate or at least reduce exposure to the hazardous conditions?
  • What are the specific system improvements needed to ensure a long term fix?

4. Who is the decision-maker?

  • Who is the person who can approve, authorize, and act on the corrective measures?
  • What are the possible objections that he/she might have?
  • What are the arguments that will be most effective in overcoming objections?

5. Why is the decision-maker doing safety?

It’s important to know what is motivating the decision-maker. Is the decision-maker doing safety to fulfill one or more of the following imperatives?

  • Fulfill the legal obligation? You may need to emphasize possible penalties if corrections are not made. Common in a fear-driven culture.
  • Fulfill the fiscal obligation? You may want to emphasize the costs/benefits. Common in an achievement-driven culture.
  • Fulfill the social obligation? You may want to emphasize improved morale, public relations. Common in a humane corporate culture.

6. What will be the cost/benefits of corrective actions and system improvements?

  • What are the costs that might result if/when OSHA inspects? Answer this question to address the legal obligation your employer has.
  • What is the estimated investment required to take corrective action, and how does that contrast with the possible costs if corrective actions are not taken? Answer this question to address the fiscal obligation your employer has.
  • What is the “message” sent to the workforce and the community as a result of action or inaction? Answer this question to address the social obligation your employer has.


OSHA Employer Responsibilities

Your employer has many responsibilities or obligations detailed within the OSH Act and other standards. OSHA’s job is to protect employees, not necessarily employers. If there is a serious accident in the workplace, OSHA will investigate to determine if the employer did not adequately meet their obligations under the law. By doing so, OSHA’s ultimate goal is to protect you, the employee.

With this in mind, your employer must meet the following obligations to employees:

  • Provide a workplace free from recognized hazards and comply with OSHA standards.
  • Provide training required by OSHA standards.
  • Keep records of injuries and illnesses.
    • Set up a reporting system.
    • Provide copies of logs, upon request.
    • Post the annual summary.
    • Report within 8 hours any accident resulting in a fatality.
    • Report any work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye within 24 hours.
  • Provide medical exams when required by OSHA standards and provide workers access to their exposure and medical records.
  • Not discriminate against workers who exercise their rights under the Act (Section 11(c)).
  • Post OSHA citations and hazard correction notices.
  • Provide and pay for most PPE.

Employer OSHA General Responsibilities

Your employer must provide a workplace free from recognized hazards and comply with OSHA standards. Establishing a safe and healthful workplace requires every employer to make safety and health a core value. In general, OSHA requires employers to:

  • Maintain conditions and adopt practices reasonably necessary to protect you on the job. The first and best strategy is to control the hazard at its source. Engineering controls do this, unlike other controls that generally focus on the worker who is exposed to the hazard. The basic concept behind engineering controls is that, to the extent feasible, the work environment and the job itself should be designed to eliminate hazards or reduce exposure to hazards.
  • Be familiar with the standards that apply to their workplaces, and comply with these standards.
  • Ensure that you are provided with, and use, personal protective equipment (PPE), when needed. PPE is needed when exposure to hazards cannot be engineered completely out of normal operations or maintenance work, and when safe work practices and other forms of administrative controls cannot provide sufficient additional protection. PPE may also be appropriate for controlling hazards while engineering and work practice controls are being installed, and
  • Comply with the OSHA’s General Duty Clause where no specific standards apply. The general duty clause, or Section 5(a)(1) of the Act requires each employer to “furnish a place of employment which is free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees.”
Check Out: How to Conduct a Job Hazard Analysis to identify PPE needs

Employers Must Provide PPE

OSHA requires that employers protect you from workplace hazards that can cause injury or illness. When engineering, work practice and administrative controls are not feasible or do not provide sufficient protection, employers must provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to you and ensure its use.

  • With few exceptions, OSHA requires employers to pay for personal protective equipment used to comply with OSHA standards.
  • Employers cannot require workers to provide their own PPE
  • The worker’s use of PPE they already own must be completely voluntary.
  • Even when a worker provides his or her own PPE, the employer must ensure that the equipment is adequate to protect the worker from hazards at the workplace.

Employers are not required to pay for some PPE in certain circumstances:

  • Non-specialty safety-toe protective footwear (including steel-toe shoes or boots) and non-specialty prescription safety eyewear provided that the employer permits such items to be worn off the job site. (OSHA based this decision on the fact that this type of equipment is very personal, is often used outside the workplace, and that it is taken by workers from jobsite to jobsite and employer to employer.)
  • Everyday clothing, such as long-sleeve shirts, long pants, street shoes, and normal work boots.
  • Ordinary clothing, skin creams, or other items, used solely for protection from weather, such as winter coats, jackets, gloves, parkas, rubber boots, hats, raincoats, ordinary sunglasses, and sunscreen
  • Items such as hair nets and gloves worn by food workers for consumer safety.
  • Lifting belts because their value in protecting the back is questionable.
  • When the employee has lost or intentionally damaged the PPE and it must be replaced.

Employers Must Provide Training

We already discussed your right to receive training from your employer on a variety of health and safety hazards and standards, such as chemical right to know, fall protection, confined spaces and personal protective equipment.

Many OSHA standards specifically require the employer to train workers in the safety and health aspects of their jobs. Other OSHA standards make it the employer’s responsibility to limit certain job assignments to those who are authorized, certified, competent, or qualified – meaning that they have had special previous training, in or out of the workplace as follows:

  • Authorized person – means a person approved or assigned by the employer to perform a specific type of duty or duties or to be at a specific location or locations at the jobsite.
  • Certified Person – is one who has passed stringent written and practical exams related to the work that he will perform. OSHA requires the organization providing the examinations be accredited.
  • Competent person – means one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.
  • Qualified person – means one who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated his ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.

OSHA construction standards include a general training requirement, which states: “The employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposure to illness or injury.” Additional general training requirements for construction include training for workers:

  • required to handle or use poisons, caustics, and other harmful substances;
  • who may be exposed to job sites where harmful plants or animals are present;
  • required to handle or use flammable liquids, gases, or toxic materials; or
  • required to enter into confined or enclosed spaces.
Check out: How to Put Together a Workplace Safety Training Workshop

Employers Must Keep Records of Injuries and Illnesses

Recordkeeping is an important part of an employer’s responsibilities. Keeping records allows OSHA to collect survey material, helps OSHA identify high-hazard industries, and informs you, the worker, about the injuries and illnesses in your workplace. About 1.5 million employers with more than 10 employees must keep records of work-related injuries and illnesses. Workplaces in certain low-hazard industries such as retail, education, finance, insurance, and real estate may be partially exempt from routine recordkeeping requirements.

For more information on updated exemptions see this OSHA Fact Sheet.

To meet OSHA reporting requirements, employers must do the following

  • Set up a reporting system.
  • Provide copies of logs, upon request.
  • Post the annual summary.
  • Report within 8 hours any accident resulting in a fatality.
  • Report all work-related hospitalizations, amputations, and loss of an eye within 24 hours.
Make sure your company representatives are well trained on reporting, training available here

I offer an OSHA recordability flowchart, which will help you identify which injuries to report.

Employers Must Post OSHA Citations and Hazard Correction Notices

An OSHA citation informs the employer and workers of the standards violated, the length of time set for correction, and proposed penalties resulting from an OSHA inspection.

Your employer must post a copy of each citation at or near places where the violations occurred for 3 days or until the violation is fixed (whichever is longer).

Employers also have to inform workers of what they have done to fix the violation, allow workers to examine and copy abatement documents sent to OSHA, and tag cited movable equipment to warn workers of the hazard.

Causal Tree Analysis Root Cause

An accident may be the result of many factors (simultaneous, interconnected, cross-linked events) that have interacted in some dynamic way. In an effective accident investigation, the investigator will conduct three levels of root cause analysis:

  • Injury analysis: At this level of analysis, we do not attempt to determine what caused the accident, but rather we focus on trying to determine how harmful energy transfer caused the injury. Remember, the outcome of the accident process is an injury.
  • Surface Cause Analysis: Here you determine the hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors described in the sequence of events that dynamically interact to produce the accident. The hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors uncovered are the surface causes for the accident and give clues that point to possible system weaknesses.
  • Root cause analysis: At this level, you’re analyzing the weaknesses in the safety management system that contributed to the accident. You can usually uncover weaknesses related to inadequate safety policies, programs, plans, processes, or procedures. Root causes always pre-exist surface causes and may function through poor component design to allow, promote, encourage, or even require systems that result in hazardous conditions and unsafe behaviors. This level of investigation is also called “common cause” analysis (in quality terms) because you’re identifying a system component that may contribute to common conditions and behaviors that exist or occur throughout the company.

Injury Analysis

It’s important to understand that all injuries to workers are caused by one thing: the harmful transfer of energy. Let’s take a look at some examples that illustrate this important principle.

  • If a harsh acid splashes on your face, you may suffer a chemical burn because your skin has been exposed to a chemical form of energy that destroys tissue. In this instance, the direct cause of the injury is a harmful chemical reaction. The related surface causes might be the acidic nature of the chemical (condition) and working without proper face protection (unsafe behavior).
  • If your workload is too strenuous, force requirements on your body may cause a muscle strain. Here, the direct cause of injury is a harmful level of kinetic energy (energy resulting from motion), causing injury to muscle tissue. A related surface cause of the accident might be fatigue (hazardous condition) or improper lifting techniques (unsafe behavior).

The important point to remember here is that the “direct cause” of the injury is not the same as the “surface cause” of the accident event.

  • The direct cause of injury is the harmful transfer of energy as a consequence of your exposure to that energy. The direct result of the harmful energy transfer is injury. The cause is the harmful transfer of energy. The effect is the injury.
  • The surface cause of the accident is the condition and behavior that interacts in a way that results in the harmful transfer of energy. The interaction of the condition and behavior is the cause. The effect is the harmful transfer of energy.

Harmful Forms of Energy

  1. ACOUSTIC ENERGY – Excessive noise and vibration.
  2. CHEMICAL ENERGY – Corrosive, toxic, flammable, or reactive substances. Involves a release of energy ranging from “not violent” to “explosive” and “capable of detonation.”
  3. ELECTRICAL ENERGY – Low voltage (below 440 volts) and high voltage (above 440 volts).
  4. KINETIC (IMPACT) ENERGY – Energy from “things in motion” and “impact,” and are associated with the collision of objects in relative motion to each other. Includes impact between moving objects, moving object against a stationary object, falling objects or persons, flying objects, and flying particles. Also involves movement resulting from hazards of high pressure pneumatic, hydraulic systems.
  5. MECHANICAL ENERGY – Cut, crush, bend, shear, pinch, wrap, pull, and puncture. Such hazards are associated with components that move in circular, transverse (single direction), or reciprocating motion.
  6. POTENTIAL (STORED) ENERGY – Involves “stored energy.” Includes objects that are under pressure, tension, or compression; or objects that attract or repulse one another. Susceptible to sudden unexpected movement. Includes gravity – potential falling objects, potential falls of persons. Includes forces transferred biomechanically to the human body during lifting.
  7. RADIANT ENERGY – Relatively short wavelength energy forms within the electromagnetic spectrum. Includes infra-red, visible, microwave, ultra-violet, x-ray, and ionizing radiation.
  8. THERMAL ENERGY – Excessive heat, extreme cold, sources of flame ignition, flame propagation, and heat related explosions.

What are Surface Causes?

The surface causes of accidents are those hazardous conditions and unsafe or inappropriate behaviors within the sequence of events that have directly caused or contributed in some way to the accident.

Hazardous Conditions

  • Are unique things or objects that are somehow defective or unsafe
  • Are “states of being” such as employee fatigue
  • May also be unique defects in processes, procedures or practices
  • May exist at any level of the organization
  • Are the result of deeper root causes

Hazardous conditions may exist in any of the categories below.

  • Materials
  • Machinery
  • Equipment
  • Tools
  • Chemicals
  • Environment
  • Workstations
  • Facilities
  • People
  • Workload


Unsafe or Inappropriate Behaviors

It’s important to know that most hazardous conditions in the workplace are the result of the unsafe or inappropriate behaviors that produced them.

  • Actions we take or don’t take that increase risk of injury or illness
  • May also be thought to be unique performance errors in a process, procedure or practice
  • May exist at any level of the organization
  • Are the result of deeper root causes

Below are some examples of unsafe or inappropriate employee/manager behaviors.

  • Failing to comply with rules
  • Using unsafe methods
  • Taking shortcuts
  • Horseplay
  • Failing to report injuries
  • Failing to report hazards
  • Allowing unsafe behaviors
  • Failing to train
  • Failing to supervise
  • Failing to correct
  • Scheduling too much work
  • Ignoring worker stress


System Analysis

Let’s take a look at analyzing the surface causes to determine possible safety management system weaknesses. There are many “general” conditions and behaviors (variables) inherent in the safety management system. Oh yes… to me the safety management system is “organic”. By that I mean it is dynamic, ever-changing and behaves as though it were alive. Think about it. If that’s a little too metaphysical for you… read on.

The root cause for an incident is the underlying safety management system weaknesses, which consist of thousands of variables, any number of which can somehow contribute to the surface causes of accidents. These weaknesses can take two forms.

  • System Design Root Causes: Inadequate design of one or more components of the safety management system. The design of safety management system policies, plans, programs, processes, procedures and practices (remember this as the 6-P’s) is very important to make sure appropriate conditions, activities, behaviors, and practices occur consistently throughout the workplace. Ultimately, most surface causes will lead to system design flaws.
  • System Implementation Root Causes: Inadequate implementation of one or more components of the safety management system. After each safety management system component is designed, it must be effectively implemented. You may design an effective safety plan, yet suffer failure because it wasn’t implemented properly. If you effectively implement a poorly written safety plan, you’ll get the same results. In either instance, you’ll eventually need to improve one or more policies, plans, programs, processes, procedures or practices.

Effective Recommendations

An accident investigation is generally thought to be a “reactive” safety process because it is initiated only after an accident has occurred. However, if we propose recommendations that include effective immediate corrective actions and system improvements, we may transform the investigation into a valuable “proactive” process that helps to prevent future injuries. In this module we’ll explore tips and tactics for making effective recommendations that “sell” safety improvements.

Once you have developed engineering and administrative controls to eliminate or reduce injuries, the challenge becomes convincing management to make changes. Management will most likely understand the importance of taking corrective action and readily agree to your ideas. However, if management doesn’t quite understand the benefits, success becomes less likely. Your ability to present effective recommendations becomes all that more important. This module will help you learn how to put together “an offer they can’t refuse,” by emphasizing the long-term bottom-line benefits of the corrective action you are recommending.


Download and view the Causal Tree Analysis Root Cause Training below




Behavior Based Safety Programs: A Comprehensive Guide

n the realm of workplace safety, Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs stand out as powerful tools for preventing incidents and fostering a culture of continuous improvement. While many organizations have implemented BBS, there’s always room for enhancement to ensure its sustained success. But even the most well-intentioned BBS initiatives can benefit from a tune-up. This comprehensive guide explores strategies and best practices to elevate your BBS program, turning it into a robust framework that not only identifies unsafe behaviors but actively promotes a safer workplace

Understanding the Core Principles of Behavior-Based Safety:

To improve any BBS program, it’s crucial to grasp its fundamental principles. BBS focuses on observing and addressing at-risk behaviors by engaging the workforce and fostering a collective commitment to safety. Recognizing these core tenets sets the stage for effective enhancements.

Sure, your BBS program might excel at pinpointing unsafe actions. But the true ascent lies in transitioning from observers to motivators. Here’s how:

  • Focus on the positive: Shine a light on safe behaviors just as much as you address the unsafe ones. Acknowledge and celebrate positive choices – they’re the stepping stones to lasting change. Foster an environment where safety is not just a rule but a shared value.
  • Embrace feedback loops: Open communication is your oxygen. Encourage employees to report not just safety hazards, but suggestions for improvement. Listen actively, address concerns promptly, and demonstrate that their voices matter.
  • Involve everyone, everywhere: BBS isn’t a solo climb – it’s a team expedition. Engage all levels of your organization, from front-line workers to top management, in shaping and implementing safety initiatives. Ownership breeds commitment.
  1. *Responses to unsuccessful Behavior Based Safety Program survey

Building a Culture of Shared Responsibility:

A successful BBS program isn’t just about rules and checklists; it’s about fostering a collective sense of responsibility for safety. Here’s how to build that foundation:

  • Lead by example: Actions speak louder than words. Leaders must actively embody safe behaviors, demonstrating their unwavering commitment to creating a safer workplace.
  • Empower employees: Equip your team with the knowledge and resources they need to make informed safety decisions. Train them to identify hazards, intervene in unsafe situations, and champion safety practices.
  • Celebrate milestones: Take the time to acknowledge and celebrate safety achievements, big and small. Recognition fuels motivation and reinforces the importance of a safety-first mindset.


Data-Driven Decisions, Sustainable Results:

Numbers might not tell the whole story, but they can illuminate valuable insights. Leverage data to continuously refine and optimize your BBS program:

  • Leveraging Technology: Explore the integration of technology, such as mobile apps or wearables, to streamline the observation process.
  • Track leading and lagging indicators: Monitor not just incident rates, but also near misses, safety observations, and employee feedback. This holistic approach paints a clearer picture of your safety culture.
  • Analyze trends and patterns: Identify areas where unsafe behaviors are most prevalent, and tailor your interventions accordingly. Data-driven decisions lead to targeted solutions.
  • Regularly evaluate and adapt: Don’t get set in your ways. Periodically assess the effectiveness of your BBS program and make adjustments as needed. Agility is key to long-term success.
*Responses to unsuccessful Behavior Based Safety Program survey

Real-Time Intervention Strategies:

Immediate Feedback:

In the fast-paced world of workplace safety, timing is everything. And when it comes to Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs, immediate feedback isn’t just a perk – it’s a game-changer. Here’s why:

  • Strike While the Iron is Hot: Imagine witnessing a near miss. The adrenaline pumping, the lesson still vivid. That’s the exact moment when feedback has the most profound impact. Delaying it dilutes the learning opportunity, leaving the lesson lost in the daily grind. Immediate feedback seizes the moment, solidifying the connection between action and outcome, driving lasting change.
  • Nip Negative Nudges in the Bud: Caught an unsafe behavior in the act? Prompt intervention is critical. Immediate feedback allows you to address the issue right then and there, before it has a chance to become a bigger problem. It’s like putting out a spark before it grows into a wildfire, preventing potential accidents and building a culture of real-time safety awareness.
  • Positive Reinforcement on Speed Dial: Witnessing a safe act deserves instant applause! Timely recognition amplifies the positive impact, encouraging employees to repeat these behaviors and set a strong example for their peers. Imagine the boost in morale and safety mindset when a “job well done” rings out while the safe practice is still fresh in everyone’s minds.
  • Building Trust and Transparency: When feedback is prompt and open, it fosters trust and transparency. Employees understand the program’s purpose and see its direct impact on their daily work. This fosters a collaborative environment where safety becomes a shared responsibility, not just a top-down mandate.
  • Making Data Count in Real Time: Immediate feedback isn’t just about words; it’s about harnessing data for real-time insights. Imagine a system that tracks observations and feedback in real-time, identifying trends and areas for improvement as they emerge. This empowers you to adapt your BBS program on the fly, making it a dynamic force for continuous safety improvement.
  • Remember: Immediate feedback isn’t just a nice-to-have; it’s a critical ingredient for a thriving BBS program. By prioritizing real-time insights, you’ll unlock its full potential, transforming it from a passive observer to an active driver of a safer, more productive workplace. So, ditch the delays, embrace the power of immediate feedback, and watch your BBS program blossom into a safety champion!


Behavior-Based Coaching:

Behavior-based coaching is a crucial component of a Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) program, enhancing its effectiveness by providing personalized feedback and support to employees. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to integrate behavior-based coaching into your BBS program:

  1. Understand the Basics of Behavior-Based Safety (BBS): Before implementing behavior-based coaching, ensure your organization has a solid understanding of the principles of BBS. This includes identifying at-risk behaviors, creating a positive safety culture, and fostering employee engagement.
  2. Define Clear Objectives for Behavior-Based Coaching: Establish specific objectives for incorporating coaching into your BBS program. These could include reducing specific at-risk behaviors, improving overall safety culture, or enhancing communication about safety concerns.
  3. Train Coaches and Observers: Provide comprehensive training for coaches and observers involved in the program. Ensure they understand the principles of behavior-based coaching, effective observation techniques, and how to provide constructive feedback.
  4. Develop a Coaching Framework: Create a structured coaching framework that outlines the process from observation to intervention. This should include guidelines for immediate feedback, coaching sessions, and ongoing support.
  5. Identify Key Behaviors for Coaching: Determine which behaviors are critical to address through coaching. These might include unsafe practices, failure to use personal protective equipment (PPE), or lapses in following established safety procedures.
  6. Promote Positive Reinforcement: Emphasize positive reinforcement during coaching sessions. Acknowledge safe behaviors and highlight improvements. This approach encourages employees to continue exhibiting safe practices.
  7. Implement Real-Time Feedback: Integrate real-time feedback into the coaching process. If an observer identifies an at-risk behavior, coaches should provide immediate, constructive feedback to the employee involved. This helps address issues promptly.
  8. Encourage Two-Way Communication: Foster open communication between coaches and employees. Encourage employees to share their perspectives, concerns, and suggestions for improving safety. A collaborative approach enhances the effectiveness of coaching.
  9. Utilize Technology for Efficiency: Leverage technology, such as mobile apps or digital platforms, to streamline the coaching process. This can include recording observations, tracking progress, and providing resources for self-directed learning.
  10. Establish Clear Reporting Mechanisms: Implement a reporting system for coaches to document their interactions and observations. This data can be valuable for assessing the impact of coaching on behavior change and overall safety performance.
  11. Schedule Regular Coaching Sessions: Set up regular coaching sessions to review progress, discuss challenges, and reinforce positive behaviors. Consistency is key to embedding behavioral changes into the organizational culture.
  12. Measure and Evaluate Coaching Effectiveness: Define key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the effectiveness of behavior-based coaching. This could include a reduction in at-risk behaviors, improved safety metrics, and increased employee engagement in safety initiatives.
  13. Provide Ongoing Training and Development: Continuously train and develop coaches to ensure they stay informed about best practices and maintain their coaching skills. This ongoing investment contributes to the sustainability of the behavior-based coaching program.
  14. Celebrate Success and Continuous Improvement: Celebrate successes and milestones achieved through behavior-based coaching. Additionally, use feedback and data to identify areas for continuous improvement, adjusting the coaching program as needed.

By integrating behavior-based coaching into your BBS program with a strategic and employee-centric approach, you can create a safety culture that prioritizes continuous improvement, individual accountability, and a collective commitment to a safer workplace.

Check Out: How Effective Leaders Use Positive Reinforcement For the Greatest Effect

Tailoring BBS Programs to Industry-Specific Needs:

 Customizing Behavioral Checklists:

    • Tailor observation checklists to address industry-specific risks and behaviors.
    • Collaborate with industry experts to identify unique challenges and solutions.

One size doesn’t fit all, and that’s especially true when it comes to workplace safety. While Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs offer an invaluable toolkit for preventing accidents and building a culture of safety, simply plopping a generic program into any industry won’t unlock its full potential. That’s where industry-specific tailoring comes in, transforming BBS from a one-note melody into a symphony of safety tailored to the unique risks and rhythms of each workplace.

Gearing Up for the Grind: BBS in Manufacturing:

Imagine the whirring machinery, the sparks flying – the inherent risks of manufacturing demand a BBS program that speaks its language. Focus on:

  • Task-specific observations: Train supervisors to identify and address unsafe behaviors specific to each task, from machine operation to material handling.

  • Near-miss reporting: Encourage workers to report close calls as learning opportunities, not just accidents waiting to happen.

  • Safety champions: Empower experienced workers to mentor and advocate for safe practices among their peers.


The Key to BBS Customization:

Remember, tailoring is an ongoing process. Regularly analyze incident data, conduct employee surveys, and engage in open communication to identify areas for improvement and ensure your BBS program stays relevant and effective.

By embracing industry-specific needs, BBS programs shed their generic skin and transform into powerful tools for fostering safety in every corner of the working world. So, ditch the one-size-fits-all approach and get ready to craft a safety symphony that resonates with the unique rhythm of your industry. The reward? A healthier, happier, and ultimately more productive workplace for everyone.

Measuring the Impact: Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

Establishing Relevant KPIs:

    • Define key metrics aligned with the goals of the BBS program.
    • Metrics may include incident reduction rates, observation completion rates, and positive behavior reinforcement rates.

Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs are powerful tools for cultivating a safer and more productive workplace. But measuring their success requires more than just counting bandages. To truly understand the impact of your BBS initiatives, you need to track the right Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Here are some essential KPIs to consider for your behavior based safety program:

Engagement & Participation:

  • Observation Rate: How often are safe and unsafe behaviors observed? This measures the program’s reach and employee engagement.
  • Feedback Rate: Do employees feel comfortable reporting near misses and safety concerns? This indicates trust and a willingness to participate actively.
  • Training Attendance: Are employees attending safety training sessions and actively learning about safe practices? This reflects their commitment to safety.

Behavior Change & Culture:

  • Positive Behavior Frequency: How often are safe behaviors observed compared to unsafe ones? This shows a shift towards a culture of safety.
  • Incident Rate Reduction: Are accidents and injuries decreasing over time? This is the ultimate measure of the program’s effectiveness in preventing harm.
  • Safety Climate Surveys: Do employees feel safe and supported in their work environment? This gauges the overall safety culture and identifies areas for improvement.

Leading Indicators for Proactive Safety:

  • Hazard Identification Rate: Are employees actively identifying and reporting potential hazards before they lead to incidents? This shows proactiveness and risk awareness.
  • Near Miss Reporting: How many near misses are reported? This indicates employees are paying attention to potential safety issues and taking preventative measures.
  • Safety Stop Rate: Do employees feel empowered to stop unsafe work practices and address safety concerns? This reflects a culture of ownership and responsibility.


  • KPIs are not one-size-fits-all: Choose metrics that align with your program’s goals and your industry’s specific risks.
  • Track trends over time: Don’t just focus on individual data points. Look for patterns and trends to identify areas for improvement and celebrate successes.
  • Regularly evaluate and adapt: No program is perfect. Use your KPIs to identify areas for improvement and refine your BBS initiatives to achieve optimal results.

By tracking the right KPIs and taking action based on the data, you can ensure your BBS program is not just a box-ticking exercise, but a powerful driver of real change in your workplace. Remember, measuring what matters is the key to unlocking the true potential of BBS and creating a safer, healthier, and more productive environment for everyone.

Check Out: How to Set Goals for Safety Performance

Regular Audits and Assessments:

Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs thrive on continuous improvement. Just like a well-oiled machine needs tune-ups, your BBS program requires regular check-ins to ensure it’s running smoothly and effectively. Enter the stage: audits and assessments, your trusty spotlights illuminating areas for refinement and maximizing the program’s impact.

Why Audit and Assess?

Regular audits and assessments aren’t just bureaucratic exercises; they’re vital tools for:

  • Gauging Program Effectiveness: Are your BBS initiatives actually changing behaviors and reducing risks? Audits provide evidence-based insights to validate or disprove your assumptions.
  • Identifying Areas for Improvement: No program is perfect. Assessments help you pinpoint weaknesses, uncover gaps in knowledge or implementation, and prioritize areas for improvement.
  • Demonstrating Commitment: Regular evaluations showcase your dedication to safety, fostering trust and buy-in among employees and stakeholders.

What to Audit and Assess?

Your audit and assessment toolkit can be customized to your specific program and organizational needs, but some key areas include:

  • Program Design and Implementation: Are your BBS components clearly defined, well-communicated, and effectively implemented across all levels of the organization?
  • Observation and Feedback Processes: Are observations conducted frequently and effectively? Does feedback reach employees promptly and lead to positive behavior change?
  • Employee Engagement and Participation: Are employees actively involved in the program? Do they feel comfortable reporting issues and participating in safety initiatives?
  • Data Analysis and Utilization: Are you collecting and analyzing relevant data to track progress and inform program adjustments? Are insights translating into actionable changes?
Check Out: How to Develop an Internal Safety Audit Schedule

Shining the Light: Conducting the Audit

Audits and assessments come in various flavors, from internal self-evaluations to external expert-led reviews. Choose the approach that best aligns with your needs and resources. Regardless of the method, remember these key principles:

  • Objectivity and Transparency: Conduct audits with an unbiased eye and openly share the findings with stakeholders.
  • Collaboration and Feedback: Involve employees at all levels in the process. Their insights are invaluable for understanding challenges and identifying solutions.
  • Actionable Outcomes: Don’t just point out the problems; translate findings into concrete action plans for improvement.

Remember: Audits and assessments are not punitive exercises; they’re opportunities to learn, grow, and strengthen your BBS program. By embracing regular evaluations and acting on their insights, you can continuously fine-tune your approach, build a robust safety culture, and create a safer, more productive workplace for everyone. So, grab your flashlight, shine a light on your BBS program, and pave the way for a brighter, safer future.

Addressing Challenges and Overcoming Resistance:

Change Management Strategies:

    • Anticipate and address resistance to change through effective change management strategies.
    • Communicate the benefits of BBS and address concerns transparently.
Check Out:  Making Behavior Change Stick Through Effective Change Leadership

Leadership Buy-In:

    • Secure leadership buy-in by showcasing the positive impact of BBS on safety outcomes.
    • Encourage leadership to actively participate in the program to set an example.

Remember, climbing the safety summit isn’t a single sprint, it’s a continuous journey. By incorporating these strategies into your behavior based safety program, you’ll build a robust framework that fosters a culture of shared responsibility, cultivates positive behaviors, and empowers everyone to play an active role in creating a safer, healthier workplace for all. Take the first step today, and watch your safety culture reach new heights!

Check-out my slideshow about implementing a behavior based safety program

BEHAVIOR based safety Kevin Ian Columbus Ohio Safety Consultant

Tips for Developing A Successful Emergency/Crisis Management Program

Emergency/Crisis Management Planning needs vary with the industry, type of operations, and regulatory applicability; however, the following guidelines can be used for any situation:


The first step is to Identify vulnerabilities and hazards associated with your operation. No one understands your operation better than you. Ensure that emergency, business continuity, and security issues are considered and use this analysis to prioritize your plan development efforts.

  • You should consider the following topics, at a minimum:
  • What are your vulnerabilities to natural disasters? Depending on the geographic scope of your operation, you may be subject to hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes. floods, ice storms, or all of these.
  • How would your company continue to operate in the midst of a pandemic situation?
  • What are the hazards introduced by your operation, and who may be impacted from a fire, release of hazardous material, oil spill, or explosion? Consider various events involving similar types of operations involving other entities, not the fact that it may have never happened in yours.
  • In the event that your primary or corporate office becomes uninhabitable due to a fire, flood, hurricane, earthquake, power failure or other event, could your company to operate?
  • What are your security vulnerabilities?


The next step is to use the results of the Hazard Analysis performed above, and determine what plan types should be developed, and which should be developed on a facility level or corporate/enterprise-wide level. For instance, site-specific fire pre-plans may be valuable for buildings and storage tanks that contain flammable contents; business continuity plans may be applicable at the corporate level.

Does your company need more components of an emergency action plan? Check what is available here

Example programs may include the following:


  • Emergency Response Plans (industrial operations), Emergency Operations Plans (hospitals, schools and universities), Emergency Action Plans (office building) describing site-specific initial response and activations procedures for potential hazards.
  • Fire Pre-Plans for buildings and process equipment, if applicable.
  • SPCC, OPA 90 Plans, RCRA Contingency Plans, SWPPP and other regulatory plans for facilities that store oil.


  • Crisis Management Plans describing corporate procedures for supporting operational emergencies, and for responding to corporate crises, including security, product liability, financial and other reputation issues.
  • Business Continuity Plans for corporate and regional offices
  • Pandemic Plans (often included as a subset of Business Continuity Plans)


Identify applicable regulatory requirements and ensure that your program addresses them, but remember that the primary purposes of the plans are to enable your company to respond effectively, and in the process, to ensure compliance. A common mistake is to organize plans specifically to meet the order of the regulations, when in fact, this may not result in the most logical or user-friendly format. Keep in mind that some regulations require a specific plan format or order of content, however, in many cases there is flexibility to organize the plan differently, as long as a regulatory cross-reference is provided and clearly identifies where each requirement is addressed.

Develop plans in a logical format that will be intuitive to responders who may not have had time to review them or training. A good test is to provide the plan to someone outside the organization and find out how long it takes for them to find key response information.

Ensure that plan content is comprehensive enough to provide tools needed for a response but is not so detailed that it reduces the effectiveness of the plan and results in more plan maintenance than necessary. Consider providing references and/or hyperlinks to detailed technical or regulatory information that may be needed but is too detailed to include in the plan.

Develop the content in a streamlined format with the goal of reducing the time required to read it. Bullet points and checklists are favorable to paragraphs of information.

OSHA offers publication 3088 to help organizations plan for emergencies and evacuations.

Download and view the OSHA Emergency Whitepaper below:

osha3088 how to plan emergencies