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A Professional Guide to Accident and Incident Prevention at the Workplace

Updated on April 4, 2018
Accidents are a subset of Incidents
Accidents are a subset of Incidents


Debate over the use of the term "accidents" versus "incidents" has been a long and continuing one.

Although these terms will be used as virtually interchangeable in the future hubs that I'll write, you should be aware of the distinction between the two.

Accidents are usually defined as unexpected, unplanned and uncontrollable events or mishaps.

These undesired events result in personal injury and/or property damage and/or equipment failure.

Incidents are all of the previous as well as adverse production effects. In short, Accidents are a subset of incidents. (See the Picture in the right)

This definition for an accident undermines the basic philosophy of this book, that we can control these types of events or mishaps.

This is why we spend time identifying hazards and determining risks with the probability that a hazards will result in an accident with definable consequences.

Thus, striving for a safe workplace, where associated risks are judged to be acceptable, is a goal of safety.

This will result in freedom from circumstances that can cause injury or death to workers, damage to or loss of equipment or property. This is essentially a definition of safety.

The approach to this is that we can control factors which are the causing agents of accidents. We can prevent accidents by using the tools provided within this hub.

1. Comprehensive Accident Prevention

Accident Prevention is very complex due to interactions which transpire within the workplace (See the below picture). These interactions are between:

  1. Workers.
  2. Management.
  3. Equipment and Machines.
  4. Environment.

Interactive Factors In Accident Prevention
Interactive Factors In Accident Prevention
Interactions Between Workers And The Management
Interactions Between Workers And The Management | Source

The interaction between workers, management, equipment and machinery, and the workplace environment separately are complex enough by themselves.

More complexity transpires when they are blended together to become a workplace. But physical environment is not the only environment impinging upon the accident prevention efforts within companies.

The social environment is also an interactive factor, which encompasses our lives at work and beyond. Government entities in the social arena provide pressures in the workplace such as unions, family, peer pressure, friends, associates, etc.

This extends the interactions which must be attended to in order to successfully prevent accidents.

Accident Prevention
Accident Prevention

2. Accident Prevention

Prevention of Occupationally related accidents/incidents is the law. The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) requires employers to provide a workplace free from hazards that could cause serious harm or death.

Beyond that, it makes good business sense to prevent accidents/incidents. More and more companies have come to realize that the OSHAct is a helpmate not a hindrance to their accident/incident prevention initiative.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets the foundation and assumes the role of law enforcer, allowing the employer not to be viewed as the bad guy to his or her employees. Employers can deflect responsibility to OSHA.

As business competition has increased, loss control has been seen as a logical place to curtail costs, especially direct losses from equipment damage, medical costs, and workers' compensation premiums.

Preventing accidents results in real observable savings. Safety experts approximate the hidden cost of accidents as being conservatively five to ten times the direct cost incurred. Hidden costs include lost production, retraining, supervisor's time lost, just to name a few.

3. Benefits Of Preventing Accidents

You can expect many benefits from preventing occupational accidents/incidents. Some of the benefits you might expect are:

  • Industrial insurance premium costs are reduced.
  • Indirect costs of accidents are reduced.
  • Fewer compliance to inspections and penalties.
  • Adverse publicity from deaths or major accidents can be avoided.
  • Legal settlements and litigations are reduced.
  • Lower employee payroll deductions for industrial insurance.
  • Pain and suffering of injured workers are reduced.
  • Long-term or permanent disability cases are reduced.
  • Increased acceptance of bids (more jobs).
  • Morale and loyalty from individual workers are improved.
  • Workers' productivity is increased.
  • Pride in company personnel is increased.

The above is not an inclusive list but it certainly gives the picture of why we should all undertake a loss control effort for occupationally related incidents.

4. Preventing Occupational Accidents or Incidents

Throughout the years since the introduction of the Occupational Safety And Health Administration regulatory controls, some companies have been more successful than others at preventing worker-related accidents or incidents.

These companies have placed Occupational Safety and Health on an equal footing with production. They have developed programs, used accident prevention techniques, and applied the principles of motivation to safety.

in doing this, they often have devised their own unique approach, specific to their industry. Each industry is somewhat different. what works well for one company may not duplicate or replicate at other companies without tailoring to fit the unique needs of the latter.

Uniqueness is often used as an excuse to not take action. Excuses include:


  • "Our industry is different".


  • "It won't work for our industry".

In general, these excuses are regarded as "lame" and a way of saying that they just don't want to try to make safety a priority.

The principles of preventing accidents are applicable to any industry setting if one desires to make accident prevention an integral part of doing business.

Sorry, Nothing New Here!
Sorry, Nothing New Here!

5. Nothing New In Prevention!

There is nothing earthshakingly new in the accident or incident prevention arena. Basic accident or incident prevention techniques espoused in this book have been used and modified over decades.

Few, if any, dramatically new approaches have been devised using more modern techniques. Thus, accident investigation has always been accident investigation no matter the words used.

But the tools and processes utilized for accident prevention have experienced modification and evolution as accident prevention has become an integral part of loss control initiatives of companies.


6. How Much Prevention?

Every workplaces have hazards which present a risk of injury or illness from the dangers that exist. At times, the hazards cannot be removed and the dangers exist and can cause an accident.

Risk is the probability of an accident occurring. The amount of risk which you deem acceptable will do much to define the extent of your injury prevention effort. Risk related to safety and health is often a judgment call.

But even a judgment call can be quantified if you develop criteria and place value upon them. William T. Fine (author of "Mathematical Evaluation For Controlling Hazards") has provided a mathematical model for conducting a risk assessment which results in a numerical value that can be used to compare potential risks from accidents.

William T. Fine's first component is a risk score which compiles numerical values related to consequences, exposure, and probabilities. To calculate a risk score, extract the rating values from the Justification Formula Rating Summary Table found below.The values derived are placed in the Risk Score Formula and then it is calculated.

Risk Score Formula= Consequences x Exposure x Probability

Once you have obtained a Risk Score, you should make a comparison along the following criteria to determine the need for immediate action. If the score is between:

  • 18 and 85 - The hazard should be eliminated without delay, but the situation is not an emergency.
  • 90 and 200 - This is urgent and required immediate attention.
  • 270 and 1500 - This score requires immediate corrective action. All activities being carried out should be discontinued until the hazard is removed or reduced completely.

7. Justification Formula Rating Summary Table

(click column header to sort results)
1. Consequences
(a) Catastrophe;Numerous Fatalities;Damages Over $1,000,000;Major Disruption Of Activities
(b) Multiple Fatalities;Damages From $500,000 To $1,000,000
Most probable result of the Potential Accident
(c) Fatality;Damages $100,000 To $500,000
(d) Extremely Serious Injury (Amputation, Permanent Disability); Damages $1000 To $100,000
(e) Disabling Injury;Damages Up To $1000
(f) Minor Cuts;Bruises;Bumps;Minor Damages
2. Exposure
Hazard-event occurs:
(a) Continuously (Or Many Times Daily)
(b) Frequently (Approximately Once Daily))
The frequency of occurrence of the hazard event.
(c) Occasionally (From Once Per Week To Once Per Month)
(d) Usually (From Once Per Month To Once Per Year)
(e) Rarely (It Has Been Known To Occur)
(f) Remotely Possible (Not Known To Have Occurred)
3. Probability
Complete accident sequence:
(a) Is The Most Likely And Expected Result If The Hazard-Event Takes Place
Likelihood that accident sequence will follow to completion
(b) Is Quite Possible, Not Unusual, Has An Even 50/50 Chance
(c) Would Ne An Unusual Sequence Or Coincidence
(d) Would Be A Remotely Possible Coincidence
(e) Has Never Happened After Many Years Of Exposure
(f) Practically Impossible Sequence (Has Never Happened)
4. Cost Factor
(a) Over $50,000
(b) $25,000 To $50,000
Estimated dollar cost of proposed corrective action
(c) $10,000 To $25,000
(d) $1000 To $10,000
(e) $100 To $1000
(f) $25 To $100
(g) Under $25
5. Degree Of Correction
(a) Hazard Positively Eliminated 100%
(b) Hazard Reduced At Least 75%
Degree to which hazard will be reduced
(c) Hazard Reduced 50% To 75%
(d) Hazard Reduced By 25% To 50%
(e) Slight Effect On Hazard (Less Than 25%)

Quick Question!

Did you knew about the "Risk Score"?

See results

A Risk Score will not necessarily garner support for the removal or reduction of potential hazard. The questions asked are, "How much will it cost?" and "How much hazard reduction will be derived from fixing the dangerous situation?".

William T. Fine went beyond the Risk Score and developed a Justification Formula. The formula includes factors for cost and the degree of correction. The resulting rating values for the cost and degree of correction factor can be extracted from the Justification Formula Rating Summary Table.

Justification Formula= Consequences x Exposure x Probability (Risk Score) / Cost Factor x Degree Of Correction

For a Critical Justification Rating of greater than ten, fixing the hazard is justified. For a score of less than ten, fixing the hazard is not be justified.

Any time you can quantify something, you have a better chance of proving your point in gaining acceptance for it. Most manager and others pay more attention to numbers that supports a case for risk reduction than to rhetoric.

Thus, when discussing risks related to Occupational Safety and Health, being able to determine a value that equates to the degree of risk allows each company a measure for deciding how much risk it is willing to assume. This is the best accomplished by using a quantitative approach.

Risk Score Calculation Sample

Taking data from the above table, suppose we have the following data:

  • Fatality and damages from $100,000 to $500,00 having a rating of "25".
  • Frequently (approximately once daily) having a rating of "6".
  • The Most Likely And Expected Result If The Hazard-Event Takes Place having a rating "10".

Therefore, we have the following 3 values:

  • 25
  • 6
  • 10

Risk Score Formula= Consequences x Exposure x Probability

= 25 x 6 x 10

= 1500

The Risk Score is 1500. Therefore, it requires immediate corrective action and all activities should be discontinued until the hazard is removed or reduced since it is in the range between 270 and 1500.

Justification Rating Calculation Sample

Taking data from the above table, suppose we have the following data:

  • Fatality and damages from $100,000 to $500,00 having a rating of "25".
  • Frequently (approximately once daily) having a rating of "6".
  • The most likely and expected result if the hazard-event takes place having a rating "10".
  • Cost Factor Of $25,000 To $50,000 having a rating of "6".
  • Degree Of Correction - Hazard Reduced By 25% To 50% having a rating of "4".

Therefore, we have the following 5 values:

  • 25
  • 6
  • 10
  • 6
  • 4

Justification Formula= Consequences x Exposure x Probability (Risk Score) / Cost Factor x Degree Of Correction

= 25 x 6 x 10 / 6 x 4

= 1500 / 24

= 62.5

The Justification Rating is 62.5. Therefore, fixing the hazard is justified since the rating is greater than ten.

Structuring | Source

8. Structuring Accident Or Incident Prevention

Structuring should begin with a written safety and health program. Then we need to assess our accident/incident history and develop a good accident and injury reporting and investigation procedure.

Once you have sufficient data to identify your hazards, determine the potential interventions that will prevent the occurrence of injuries. The interventions, chosen for implementation, are the accident prevention processes and techniques you feel will help prevent mishaps.

These interventions become a part of your accident prevention program. They may be processes or applications of accident prevention techniques, such as job safety observations or actual physical changes (engineering controls) to equipment or facilities.

Your safety and health program should culminate with follow-up evaluation procedures to determine the effectiveness of your loss control program.

Keep Calm and Know Who You Are Dealing With
Keep Calm and Know Who You Are Dealing With | Source

9. Know Who You Are Dealing With

You must understand the culture of the work environment before you can intelligently implement any type of program aimed at the workforce.

You need to know and understand the values, attitudes, and perception held by the workforce relevant to job safety and health.

This will afford the opportunity to place into action a motivational plan relevant to preventing accidents and incidents in your unique workplace.

Kansas City Police and Fire Investigators Outside JJ's Restaurant After The February 19th, 2013 Explosion-Fire.
Kansas City Police and Fire Investigators Outside JJ's Restaurant After The February 19th, 2013 Explosion-Fire. | Source

10. Determining The Cause Of Accidents

The causes of the specific types of accident/incident that have occurred within your workplace must be assessed.

The approach you wish to use in the assessment and analysis process depends greatly on your familiarity with and the types of occurrences that transpired in your workplace.

Prevention Technique
Prevention Technique | Source

11. Accident Prevention Techniques

The accident prevention techniques such as job hazard analysis, safe operating procedures, and job safety observations, have their application to specific jobs within the workplace. In general, they aim at addressing and identifying existing or potential work-related hazards.

Conclusion | Source


Accidents or Incidents cannot be eliminated completely at the workplace but we can implement reasonable measures of safety and health in order to prevent them from occurring.

Workplace Accidents-Prevent It


  1. Fine, W. "Mathematical Evaluations for Controlling Hazards," in J. Widner, (Ed.). Selected Reading in Safety. Macon: Academy Press, 1973.
  2. Petersen, Dan, Techniques of Safety Management: A Systems Approach (3rd edn.). Goshen: Aloray Inc., 1989.
  3. Reese, C.D. and J.V. Eidson, Handbook of OSHA Construction Safety & Health. Boca Raton: CRC/Lewis Publishers, 1999.
  4. United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Office of Training and Education, OSHA voluntary Compliance Outreach Program: Instructors Reference Manual. Des Plaines:1993.
  5. United States Department of Labor, National Mine Health and Safety Academy. Accident prevention Techniques. Beckley: 1984.
  6. United States Department of Labor, Mine Safety and Health Administration. Accident Prevention, Safety Manual No. 4, Beckley: Revised 1990.

© 2014 Goonoo Muhammad Munawwar Muazzam

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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 

      7 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Great hub. Very helpful and very intuititve. Keep up the great work.


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