Safety Violations Should Never Be Normalized

Safety Violation in the Workplace

Does this picture make you shudder? It should. This is a real photograph, not staged or manipulated in any way. It represents a very dangerous safety violation and pattern of behavior called normalization of deviance.

Normalization of deviance: As a safety term was first applied by Dr. Diane Vaughan in her analysis of the space shuttle Challenger disaster, and later in analysis of failures in the nuclear energy sector.

It refers to the concept of gradual acceptance of conditions and performance that are individually, incrementally unacceptable, but based on several factors – human nature, workload, inattention, insufficient training or supervision, and others – become accepted, often with catastrophic results. In the case of the Challenger shuttle, NASA allowed the launch to go forward despite significant evidence that the result could be a devastating failure. To add to the tragedy, it happened again in the Columbia disaster; shuttles returning from space with damaged heat shielding had become the norm. If it can happen at NASA, it can happen to anyone.

Can You Spot the Hazards?

In the small 8’x8’ area captured in this photo, there are numerous serious safety issues…

  • unlabeled and mislabeled barrels and buckets
  • open containers of hazardous materials; an un-capped diesel fuel container
  • oily rags stored on top of barrels labeled as flammable
  • oil spills
  • trip hazards
  • slip hazards
  • health hazards
  • environmental hazards
  • and more.

Any one of these problems could perhaps be overlooked by a busy garage crew, but in aggregate, the situation is completely unacceptable. This is a good example of small deviations becoming the norm, building and presenting a safety violation and hazard to your people and your business.

How much risk is in this small space?

The answer depends on what the eventual accident would be, but consider this: according to Liberty Mutual Workplace Safety Index, in 2017 the average cost of a slip-and-fall workmen’s comp claim is $22,800 per accident, not including lost time, retraining, etc.. The annual direct cost to businesses in the US for slip-and-fall accidents tops $11 billion dollars. Add EPA or OSHA actions, contracted clean-up services, a more serious injury, extended medical costs and insurance reserves, perhaps a fire, litigation, lost time, lost productivity, lost opportunities, and the costs quickly escalate. Also important to consider: if a visitor or building occupant is injured, liability is even greater. This small area represents a safety violation and risk that can financially cripple a business very quickly.

Don’t get caught off guard – partnering with Amerit can help mitigate your risk. Contact us today to learn more!

Want to read more about this topic? Check out the following blog post:

Risk Mitigation: Best Practices of a Safe Fleet Operation