I have read several articles lately regarding why employees do not report workplace injuries or illnesses. Perhaps, we sometimes oversimplify the reason why incidents are not reported. Most articles seem to indicate it is the employer’s work environment being toxic or not conducive of reporting incidents, blaming of the employee, fear of losing their job, and trying to maintain company safety goals, as well as many others. For the most part, we can find statistics to support just about anything. For perspective, if we look at non-workplace traffic fatalities, we can start to see that the issue is not as simple as we think, but there are many factors with us humans to be considered, and even if we understood all those things, it will never be perfect. Consider the fact that there are approximately 5,500 workplace and 35,000 traffic fatalities in the US annually. Most indications are that nearly 70% of traffic fatalities are a result of distracted or impaired driving or excessive speed, whether that is due to texting while driving, influence of drugs or alcohol or talking on the phone. You can ask most people if they are aware that these things can result in an accident, and they will respond in the affirmative! It is the same in most industrial settings, we generally know what is good for us and bad. For instance, we know we need to wear our PPE, use fall protection, follow procedures, and use energy control or LOTO procedures. Most been trained numerous times and understand what to do and how to do it, yet incidents still happen. So, why do we continue to do these things even though we know it is wrong, and it can result in injuries to ourselves or others?
To illustrate why this is not a simple question, my wife and I tried to create a nurturing, caring, and loving environment in our home for our kids growing up, and encouraged them to come to us about anything. Even though we created the culture, our kids still did some things they did not "report", just as we did growing up. Our kids told us later that the reason they did not "report" the things they did wrong was because they did not want to disappoint us, or “get in trouble”. Sound familiar? As a parent, and as we get older, we understand that when you truly care, you will provide the proper environment, structure, and discipline, in the right portions to create a culture that is conducive to reporting. This culture when created in the workplace, will make it easier for your employees to report incidents, but we must also understand as well, that they may not. Perhaps this may be where the saying came from, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink”. The blame game helps no one, and often if we look back, looking to blame made us do things that worked against the culture we wanted to create in the first place. Having worked for OSHA, I became keenly aware how looking for someone to blame leads to becoming more of an enforcer and less of an encourager, coach, and mentor. After all, it is this person’s opinion, a good parent will always be working to find the appropriate balance of encouragement, coaching, mentoring, and discipline. Let's not look for blame, but rather learn from mistakes and continue to improve, it is really that simple.