You might remember my post about the Accident Ratio Triangle and why I thought it was helpful to look at the bottom of the triangle and therefore prevent more serious or tragic consequences at the top.

I’d like to take this further because there are situations where people operating at the bottom of the triangle may be in blissful ignorance that anything’s wrong until that rare occasion when they do not get away with it. That’s when we get catapulted straight to the top of the triangle. And as a result we have a tragic outcome and the professionals are left scratching their heads wondering where did that come from?

Here’s a great, real-life example of this from when I worked on a behavioural safety database for a utility company client.

I was preparing for a meeting later that week by reviewing the behavioural data captured from SUSA discussions at my client’s business. I ran a breakdown of all safe vs unsafe behaviours across all their ‘headline’ behaviour categories. And there I spotted an unexpectedly high proportion of unsafe acts against ‘confined space working’.

Naturally I needed to find out more.

So I drilled down to look at  more specific ‘storyline’ behaviours and noticed that roughly half of ‘testing the atmosphere’ were showing as unsafe. In other words, people were entering confined spaces without following the correct procedure of using a gas monitor to check the atmosphere before entry.

How many injuries, incidents or near misses do you think had occurred in this organisation as a result of this type of behaviour?

Of course the answer is none at all. So on the face of it you might be forgiven for thinking that all was well in confined space entry.

The problem with this type of behaviour is that we almost always get away with it. But on that one occasion when we don’t, the result won’t be a near miss, minor or even serious injury – it jumps straight to the top of the triangle: someone dies. And by then it’s a bit too late to start learning important lessons.

Armed with this trend, I brought it to the attention of my client who initiated a major safety campaign to address the situation. Even more encouraging, a few months later I spotted something similar in a different client’s data, only this time my contact told me that he’d already seen the trend himself and had the situation in hand.

We’ve recently upgraded our well-proven Engage database to help you track exactly this kind of behavioural recording and tracking before accidents happen. Find out more in Steve’s free breakfast webinar on 17th May 2012 at 0800 BST.

How do you track the bottom of the accident triangle?

Do you stop at the near-miss level or have you found innovative ways of drilling down to the underlying behaviours? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below so that we all prevent people from getting seriously hurt or killed.