Workplace Safety


Accident Proneness

Accident proneness suggests that certain individuals are involved in more accidents than others because of some innate predisposition. This concept has been generally discredited in the safety community. It is attractive to many people in positions of responsibility because it implies that people involved in accidents are completely culpable for their own injuries. In fact, accidents occur because of inadequate design, poor preparation, or personal limitations, not because of individual predisposition.

Accident Proneness


To be "in compliance" means that one acts in accordance with all applicable rules and standards. This is necessary, but not sufficient in all cases, to prevent accidents and injuries. Rules and standards often represent minimum requirements or may be restricted to a narrow scope. Advances in technology or changes in working procedures may outdate them

Consensus Standards

All the major groups that would be affected by a "consensus" standard must agree to the standard's content. In fact, many of the people who write the standards are typically employed by organizations that will be affected by the standards. Organizations may not want to allow standardized requirements that jeopardize their business practices. Thus, consensus standards are likely to represent the lowest common denominator among its developers and may or may not be technically adequate.

Criterion-Based Standards

Criterion-based standards require that certain strict, rigid, and objective criteria be met in order to be in compliance. Certain OSHA standards, such as those that specify Threshold Limit Values for certain toxins, are criterion-based. Contrast these standards with performance-based standards.

Criterion-Based Standards


Dangerous means risky, hazardous, or unsafe. In the safety profession, situations, tools, or other elements can be either of the following:

  • Imminently dangerous-impending or immediate risk of harm, such as a bare electrical cord
  • Inherently dangerous-dangerous by their nature, such as poisons or explosives, but might not pose an immediate risk of harm.

"di minis" Violation

Regulatory agencies do not treat all rule violations equally. A "de minis" violation occurs when there is non-compliance with a rule or standard, but that violation doesn't immediately or directly affect a person's safety or health.

Design for the Individual

While we are used to thinking in terms of "averages," there really are no average people. Each person has different body dimensions, strength, abilities, and limitations. The human factors design and evaluation processes consider these individual requirements. A safe work environment necessarily considers the safety of each individual worker.

Design for the Individual


Failure is a general term that means the inability to perform an intended task or function. Any system component-human, procedural, or automated-can fail. In the systems view of aviation maintenance, the maintenance process is only as reliable as its weakest component. Even the failure of a seemingly unimportant element can cause the overall system failure.


Failure Management

To paraphrase a bit of commonly accepted wisdom, "Stuff happens!" Over the life of a system, certain failures are likely to occur. Failure management is the process of planning, setting policies, and making decisions that identify and eliminate (or control) potential failures and implementing corrective or control procedures after actual failures.

General Duty Clause

General Duty Clause refers to a comprehensive requirement in the OSHA regulations for every employer to provide work and a workplace free from recognized hazards. This is meant to put employers on notice that they have a general duty regarding their workers' safety.


A hazard is a dangerous condition that can interrupt or interfere with the expected, orderly progress of an activity. The Department of Defense recognizes four classes of hazards.

  • Negligible-will not result in injury to people or serious damage to equipment
  • Marginal-can be controlled to prevent injury or damage
  • Critical-will cause injury or serious damage (or both)
  • Catastrophic-will cause death to workers.

Human Reliability

The essence of the concept of reliability is repeatability. If something is reliable, it can be counted on to do the same thing over and over in the same manner. The opposite of reliability is variability. Humans are notoriously variable. We tend not to do the same thing twice in the same manner or like another person. While we prize our individuality, the major cause of human error is human variability.

Job Safety/Hazard Analysis

Job Safety Analysis (JSA), or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA), is a technique used to determine the hazards connected with a job or task. It is used to develop controls for these hazards and to devise the requirements or qualifications of those workers who will perform the job or task. JSA/JHA reduces the job or task into subtasks or activities for analysis.

Loss Control

Loss Control is the name given to a range of programs designed to minimize accident-based financial losses. Insurance companies often mandate loss control programs, which are usually some combination of on-site, checklist inspections and an analysis of "near misses" (see Critical Incident Technique).

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)

NIOSH is the sister agency to OSHA located in the Department of Health and Human Services. Both NIOSH and OSHA were created at the same time. NIOSH does not directly develop rules or regulations but is responsible for research into the causes of and cures for occupationally caused injuries and illnesses. OSHA may require extensive technical assistance from NIOSH in the form of Health Hazard Evaluations when the causes of health or safety problems are unknown or complex.

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

OSHA is the federal agency created by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Located in the Department of Labor, OSHA is responsible for establishing and enforcing federal workplace safety and health standards. Many states administer their own occupational safety and health programs. This is allowed under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, so long as these state-run programs meet or exceed federal standards. OSHA standards are published in the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 29, Subsections 1910-1926.

Performance-Based Standards

Performance-based standards identify important, broadly-defined goals that must result from applying a standard, rather than specific technical requirements. For example, the standard for completing a Rubik's Cube is to arrange the cube so that each side of the cube is one and only one color. Recent OSHA regulations, such as the confined space entry standard, are performance-based standards. Contrast these with criterion-based standards.

Performance-Based Standards

Safety Culture

"Safety Culture" is a term coined to define a set of organizational values that promote worker and public safety as an overriding priority. In organizations with a safety culture, everyone is trained, provided with policies and procedures, and rewarded for identifying safety hazards before they result in injuries to workers or the public.

Safety Culture


Surveillance refers to a number of techniques for analyzing and monitoring the workplace to identify safety-related problems. There are two types of surveillance:

  • Passive-using existing records, including medical, insurance, OSHA, and production logs, to detect developing health or safety problems
  • Active-investigating the work, workplace, tools and equipment, materials, or environment to learn the causes of and solutions to problems uncovered during passive surveillance.

Systems Approach

The systems approach considers humans to be part of an integrated system, not external to or isolated from the total environment.

System Safety

System safety should result when a systems approach is used to address safety. It requires applying design, operating, technical, and management techniques and principles throughout the life of a system to reduce hazards to their lowest practical levels.

Worker's Compensation

Workers' Compensation is a system of insurance required by state law. It is usually financed by employers and provides payments to employees or their dependents for occupational illness, injuries, or fatalities, regardless of fault. As part of the state laws mandating workers' compensation insurance, employers are generally protected from individual personal injury litigation. The scope of such protection varies from state to state.