Deadly 7 of Safety: How the 80/20 Rule Can Accomplish More with Less

Born in Italy in 1848, Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto was an important philosopher and economist.  He observed that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of the population. In the industries he investigated, 80% of the production came from 20% of the companies.

This “universal truth” about the imbalance of inputs and outputs is what became known as the Pareto principle, or the 80/20 rule; 80% of results come from just 20% of the action!  Though not always 100% accurate, can you relate to the following in general?

  • Do 20% of customers account for 80% of revenue?
  • Are 20% of employees account for 80% of your HR challenge?
  • Do you were 20% of your clothes 80% of the time?

So why can’t the Pareto Principle apply to workplace safety?  If we understood that 20% of our work gives rise to 80% of our credible risk, then 20% of our efforts would achieve 80% of our risk management results.

Over many years of working with hundreds of organizations we have found that the 80/20 rule applies in workplace safety.  When recognized and applied, it will contribute significantly to effective management of your workplace safety risks and you will accomplish MORE with LESS EFFORT!

The Deadly 7 of Safety

In general, when a serious incident occurs, 8 times out of 10, its involves one following:

Poster of Deadly 7

  1. Work at Heights – includes ladders, scaffold, and any other work at heights. Approximately 50% of all Stop Work Orders in Manitoba in the past 24 months were work at heights, scaffold related.
  2. Energy Sources – includes Electric, Hydraulic, Pneumatic, Thermal, Potential energy sources.
  3. Powered Mobile Equipment – includes both heavy and light equipment everywhere. Whether its an excavator or genie lift on a commercial construction site, skid steer on a residential renovation or summer student on a lawnmower…. watch out for PME!
  4. Excavations – Administrative penalties were issued to 6 Manitoba companies in the past 24 months for unsafe excavations. In August 2017, 2 companies were fined a total of $34, 667 after a worker was seriously injured when an excavation collapsed.
  5. Confined Space Entry – includes any space that has restricted access and egress and is not meant for permanent habitation. Examples include crawl spaces, attics, tanks, hoppers, manholes etc.
  6. Hoisting and Rigging – be extra aware around cranes, hoists, and overhead loads. There is little time to react and no do-overs when a hoisted load decides to fail.
  7. Moving Parts of Equipment – includes belts, pullies, shafts, blades, and any other parts of moving equipment workers may come in contact with. In November 2017 a Winnipeg Manufacturer was fined $42, 252 after a worker amputated 2 fingers when his had was pinched between material and rollers of a machine. Prevention includes guarding moving parts, Safe Work Procedures and effective lockout procedures for repair and maintenance.

Deadly 7 is a Good Start

While this is a general principle that we have found to be very effective, it is not a comprehensive list.   Be sure to evaluate your specific workplace and develop a critical task list that is specific and meaningful to the work that you do.  Other common hazards include Working Alone, Hazardous Materials (including asbestos), Violence and more.

Other reasons to start with the “The Deadly 7”:

Workers can only handle so much information at once.  When a binder full of safe work procedures is thrown at workers all at once, they will get overwhelmed.  And when that happens, their brains and learning shuts down.  If you’re just starting out to develop your Safety Management System or require serious improvement in your safety culture, less is more.  Identify your Deadly 7 and make that the focus.

Change management.  Forcing a whole bunch of procedures on workers, some of which they think are a royal inconvenience because “its worked just fine in the past” is typically met with resistance in various forms.  We all know what fun that is!!  However, this response is predictable and expected because force creates resistance.  When you focus on your Deadly 7, most people understand that if they fall 20 feet, there’s no do-over and if they chop off 2 fingers its going to hurt.  They can wrap their heads around the fact that there’s a credible hazard and start to change their behaviours.   Once they have started to change how they view safety and that its about truly honoring themselves, their co-workers, and their employer, they will be more likely to embrace additional safe work procedures and requirements.

 Download a “Deadly 7” Poster to post in your workplace and other handy resources here.