Safety Advisor Blames Unsafe Situations, Not Operator-Error

I read an interesting article today about safety by Mari-len De Guzman on, an occupational safety e-magazine for Canadian manufacturers.

At the CSSE (or, Canadian Society of Safety Engineering) conference in Niagara Falls this week, Los Alamos National Laboratory safety expert, Todd Conklin, spoke about how many manufacturing and industrial companies look at safety issues.  He pointed out that, rather than continually blame operator-error for most failures and safety problems, it is more systemic, stating that:

workers get hurt when they find themselves in situations where it’s hard to be safe and easy to get hurt.
With that in mind, he offered several potential causes for failure or safety incidents and ways to combat them.
First, he said that humans make mistakes, so he advised that it is important to anticipate those potential mistakes and have several levels of defensive safety measures.
Next, he suggested that companies should anticipate that unforeseeable events can happen, and WILL happen, so employers and safety managers need to keep this in mind.
Learning is another tip Conklin pointed out.  Whenever something bad happens, the best defense next time is to learn as much as we can from the event.  We can learn many things, like defenses, unsafe speeds, too much load, proximity to dangerous equipment or products, etc.
Finally, he also advised managers to approach safety or failure issues (and the operators involved) with caution.  He warned that being positive and asking things in a proactive manner can give a much better reply or response, as follows:
Instead of asking a worker, “what have you done, now?” ask them, “how do we set this up so failure doesn’t happen again.” By asking the right question, employers can get a more operational-centric answer.
I really thought this was great info.  It might seem like common sense to some, safety matters and needs to be one step ahead of the production line.  I also more or less agree with Conklin’s assertion that safety is not normally the worker’s fault.  Although people can sometimes be ignorant or careless, certain accidents or failures regarding safety can and should be avoided before any operators ever come near their workstation.