Managing Random Chance

No matter how dedicated you may be to workplace safety, you will never totally eliminate the possibility of danger. That's why you have insurance, after all. If you could guarantee a 100% safe and riskless work environment, you wouldn't need to take out a policy. Unfortunately, life just doesn't work that way.

A worker with a perfect safety record might their first mistake a tremendous one, a machine might have a defect and catch fire after years of loyal service, a company car could have a blowout, and all of this could happen in spite of top-notch training and regular maintenance. Safety is not so much about eliminating the possibility of danger as it is about embracing the random nature of life and being sure that you're able to manage risk. A professional poker player's strategy is not "hope for good cards," but to bluff and strategize and play the table so that they can handle the bad hands and make the most of the good ones.

The question then is: what can we do to better manage risk?

Like poker, managing risk on the job is a numbers game. A poker player knows how likely it is that they're going to score a pair if they trade two cards in, a construction site manager should know the risks associated with any given task. Here are some numbers worth knowing:

- According to OSHA, fall protection standards violations were the most common violations found in 2014 during state and federal inspections. Related to this, scaffolding violations come in at number three.

- Second on that list: poor hazard communication. Making sure that people are aware of hazards will allow them to better manage those hazards.

- The construction industry accounts for around one in five workplace deaths, with falls contributing to 302 out of 828 construction site deaths in 2013.

- Other leading factors in the "fatal four" are being struck my an object, at 10.1%, electrocutions at 8.6%, and caught-in/between at 2.5%. It's estimated that better managing these risks could save nearly 500 lives a year.

Since OSHA was founded in 1971, workplace deaths have been reduced by 67%. There's no reason we can't bring that down another 67% with tighter safety standards on the job.
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