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Avoiding Accidents vs. Preventing Accidents

All people and animals are reactive by nature—We sense stimuli, and our brains process these stimuli and prompt reaction in thought or behavior. As such, reacting to hazards and dangerous situations is a natural and instinctual way we try to stay safe in all aspects of life.

But we can often conflate avoidance of accidents with prevention of them, using the latter term when the former is more appropriate. Avoiding an accident suggests that while no harm or damage occurred, the conditions were right and an accident could have happened. On the other hand, true prevention should suggest that the conditions that could occasion an accident never manifest in the first place.

For example, the drivers of two cars avoid an accident if they react to an impending collision by braking and steering away from harm, while they prevent an accident by not creating a dangerous situation that can increase the risk of a collision, like by following traffic laws and not driving while impaired.

In a workplace setting, a clear distinction between the two terms is especially deserved, because day-to-day workplace safety should focus on prevention and the reduction of risk, not reacting to risks that have already been realized.

Reacting preventatively

But prevented accidents cannot really be measured or counted because there are no associated events to identify. And this conflicts with our reactive nature; we like to have touchpoints upon which to understand our performance and progress and then react to them in ways that serve us. To satisfy this desire, companies often tout the number of days since their last safety incident, which is a fair trailing indicator to measure, but it is of limited value in preventing safety lapses because it is not an indication of future performance.

Workplace safety, therefore, deserves solutions that make use of our reactive nature in a way that reduces the occasions for accidents to occur — In other words, a safety solution that allows employees and supervisors to “react preventatively.”

Our fatigue management and impairment testing solutions PRISM™ and AlertMeter® work this way because they allow intervention (reaction) before a fatigued or impaired worker can pose a safety risk (prevention). Plus, the associated analytical tools provide useful insight about the workforce that can help improve the way you do shift and task scheduling, among other things.

PRISM™ and AlertMeter® intuitively bridge the gap between reaction and prevention, and implementing one of these platforms at your organization is easier and more rewarding than you might think. Get in touch to discuss which solution is best for your organization, and we’ll guide you every step of the way.

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