An organization’s record of safety incidents represents more than a measure of how cautious its employees are in high risk environments or with high risk materials. This metric also directly corresponds to an organization’s values, management philosophy and priorities, employee engagement and culture as well as productivity (cost, quality, delivery) issues.


Isolated incidents aside, the recurrence of unsafe practices is not simply a story of individual or human error specifically. This is why they can’t be sustainably mitigated by targeting those immediately involved – no one person was responsible for the series of calamities that occurred in the CDC’s mishandling of bacteria. This problem began upstream – long before any lab techs “mishandled” anything.


Safety incidents are a costly and sometimes tragic indication of absentee leadership or worse, leadership that has forgotten where the company’s true value lies. Preventing them requires more than addressing a process, or operation. It requires looking at the environment in which they were allowed to keep happening.