Accidents Happen

Workplace Safety: Why Do Accidents Happen?

Safety and Hazard Communication Barriers Limits Confusion and Increases Productivity and Safety.

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Why do accidents happen?

What is it about people, an office, or a work scenario that causes accidents? The U.S. Census Bureau reported in the year 2000 that the following general categories of causes resulted in fatal work injuries:

  • Transportation — 43%
  • Assaults & violent acts — 16%
  • Contacts with objects — 17%
  • Falls — 12%
  • Exposure to harmful substances or environment — 8%
  • Fires — 3%
  • Other — 1%

Some of the factors associated with accidents and loss have been identified as those relating to management style and beliefs, human resource policies, operational procedures, and storage of supplies and merchandise. Let us examine how each of these factors contributes to workplace accidents.

Management style and beliefs

The way a manager approaches obligations, and the beliefs about personnel and the nature of work affect the way in which the person manages. Managers, as leaders, work within two dimensions — 1) attention to task (i.e., what needs to be done), and 2) attention to relationships (i.e., interaction with subordinates). A manager’s beliefs about what really matters has a great impact on how she or he chooses to exert leadership. The issue of safety and the costs of accidents and injuries generally are not apparent to managers unless their organization provides clear data identifying these costs?and the financial impact of accidents and injuries on their chapter, department or, sometimes, on their individual performance evaluations. Some of the management styles and beliefs that contribute to breakdown in safety include:


Many managers believe that accidents are something that happen to other people, and therefore, workplace safety is not a priority. Without a genuine commitment to establishing and maintaining a culture of safety, management will try to remain ignorant of the cost of accidents and injuries. Worse yet — management knows too well how the reporting of claims will impact their workers’ compensation insurance and has instituted a culture of intimidation in which employees and volunteers will be encouraged not to report injuries or accidents. They believe that no news is good news, and that by exerting their influence, they can suppress these reports.

“Clueless” Managers

Yogi Berra once said, “Ignorance isn’t what you don’t know, it’s what you know wrong.” Managers who are clueless display a lack of understanding about the costs?human and financial — of injury, illness and unsafe conditions. Some managers do not even know that their nonprofit must obtain workers? compensation insurance. Perhaps they think that if they ignore it long enough, it will go away. Refusing to address workplace safety issues can have devastating results — and could possibly destroy the nonprofit in the wake of a huge claim or lawsuit by a client or a member of the public.

Lack of Accountability

Managers, who are not held accountable for insurance costs, generally ignore the incidence of accidents, injuries and/or other claims. Their belief is: “We have insurance — who cares?” This attitude will not change unless there are significant and unpleasant consequences associated with it. A safety conscious nonprofit needs to start at the top, literally. The board of directors needs to adopt and enforce consequences for unsafe conditions.


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