Tell employees how close they are to killing someone
In 1931, a man named Herbert William Heinrich noticed something odd about accidents.
An inspector for Travelers Insurance Company, Heinrich spent his days looking at clients’ accident rates and found a ratio. For every 300 injury-free accidents, there were:
- 29 minor-injury accidents
- 1 major injury accident
This ratio, now known as Heinrich’s Law, is now a key model for safety professionals.
Communicate ‘the next big one.’
Safety communicators can also tap this law by communicating how close we are to a major accident.
“The ratio of accidents for railroads in the U.K., is 12 to 1.5 to 1,” writes TJ Larkin, principle of Larkin Communication Consulting. “So if the UK railroads experience six near misses in six months, safety communicators can say:
“We are very near a major accident.
In the next 6 months,
we will probably kill somebody.”
Small accidents have similar causes to big ones. So, Heinrich learned, if you can reduce smaller accidents, you’ll can help eliminate the big ones.
Making sure your employees know “where we are” in the escalation to a big accident can help.
Sources: TJ Larkin & Sandar Larkin, “Employees Should Know How Close They are to Killing Someone,” Larkin Page No. 56, February 2007
H.W. Heinrich, Industrial Accident Prevention — A Scientific Approach, McGraw-Hill, New York, 1959
Linda Wright and Tjerk van der Schaaf, “Accident Versus Near-Miss Causation: A Critical Review of the Literature, An Empirical Test in the UK Railway Domain, and Their Implications for Other Sectors,” Journal of Hazardous Materials, July 26, 2004, pp. 105-110