Systems-Based Approach to Preventing SIFs & Other Organizational Losses

How can organizations reduce or eliminate SIFs (Serious Injuries & Fatalities) and other types of losses that have a significant impact on their people, operations, environment, communities, and overall financial health and well-being? Addressing these challenges requires a proactive, systems-based approach that enhances human performance and behaviors at ALL levels in the organization and fosters a true learning environment.

This approach requires leaders to think and manage differently and challenges industry paradigms and assumptions. Organizations should adopt the three themes presented in their safety and loss prevention systems/programs to improve organizational performance: 1. Study and learn from success, not just failure; 2. integrate the safety and loss prevention system/program into existing organizational processes to achieve business goals and objectives; and 3. implement a leadership development model with a competency roadmap to improve and sustain performance.

The large majority of safety and loss prevention systems focus on the prevention of and learning from failure (e.g., improper risk assessment, at-risk item in a workplace observation, and near-loss or an adverse event that requires an investigation). Intuitively, but also backed by leading-edge research, we know that tasks are performed successfully and flawlessly more regularly than tasks that are not. To further enhance performance, organizations should also study success –– how and why activities are performed flawlessly. Learning from these examples is essential to improve an organization’s safety and loss prevention, but the natural industry assumption is that a reduced number of failures equates to a better safety and loss prevention culture. A reduction in failures could be indicative of an effective culture, but could also be attributed to luck or an environment that hides or overlooks issues. 

Tasks are performed successfully more regularly and better represent how work is done. These perspectives should be seen as complementary views to improve how all work is performed, which have implications on financial losses, product quality, reliability, environmental and regulatory management, equipment and property damage, process safety, etc. –– not just personal safety. For example, because organizations study root causes of failure (e.g., near miss/loss, incidents, at-risk items in observations, etc.), it only makes sense to study the root causes of success, as the root causes that lead to failure are the same that lead to success. Studying successful task performance also sends a strong, positive message, which reinforces a true learning environment.

Because these complementary views can have a significant impact on overall business performance, the safety and loss prevention system should be integrated into an organization’s goals and business objectives (e.g., no SIFs, 0 environmental or regulatory losses, 50% improvement in reliability performance, etc.). Then, the organization can work work –– across multiple levels –– to identify the high-risk tasks, tasks with loss history, and error-likely situations that have the biggest impact on these goals. At this point, the organization is able to determine when and how the safety and loss prevention tools/activities are applied in these tasks to accomplish these goals. This process becomes extremely motivating for both the employees/contractors and management as they are able to draw a direct connection between each tool and WHY they are applying it in a particular task. This process eliminates a “compliance-based mentality” –– do what needs to be done to satisfy the boss and company requirements

These two unique approaches challenge current industry paradigms and require leaders to think and manage differently. Therefore, organizations need to adopt an effective leadership development and competency roadmap that outlines the key attributes and skills that all leaders need to embody to successfully lead, integrate, and, most importantly, sustain the safety and loss prevention system/program for the long-term. The development process should include visible leadership and workplace engagement principles to enable leaders to learn more about how work is performed, connect with and coach others in the line chain, and develop meaningful relationships that foster trust and transparency to facilitate an organizational learning environment that enables collaboration, accountability, and sharing of information. This process is a critical component to organizational development, especially in highly dynamic and ever-changing organizations. By properly addressing these three principles, leaders can help establish the conditions for organizational resilience and world-class performance.

Reach out to us to learn more about how we help clients prevent SIFs and other significant organizational losses! We'd love to hear from you and share how we've partnered with clients in over 100 countries, across 10+ industries to achieve unmatched results!



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