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Safe By Accident? Hardcover – November 1, 2010

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


SAFE BY ACCIDENT, by Judy Agnew and Aubrey Daniels, features a discussion by the authors about the solution to improving workplace safety, which they say lies not in the latest engineering, physics or chemistry advancements, but in the science of human behavior. Based on decades of research and work with many of the world's leading corporations, the authors reveal how many companies are "safe by accident" because they focus too heavily on lagging indicators, such as low incident rates. They identify what is missing in safety leadership and accountability and explore seven widespread safety practices that waste time and money, such as incentive programs, safety signage and punishment. --Woodshop News

Authors Judy Agnew and Aubrey Daniels have published a book that lays out the case that just because a trucking fleet puts the latest safety gadgets on its trucks, that alone does not make it safe. In fact, the book, Safe By Accident: Take the Luck Out of Safety: Leadership Practices that Build a Sustainable Safety Culture, makes the argument that human behavior needs to change to truly create a culture of safety. Using science-based solutions, the authors have come up with seven steps companies can take to increase safety. One point they make is to get rid of most traditional practices such as incentive programs, safety signs, and punishment. These things, especially the overuse of signage, simply clutter the process and cause employees to tune out more important messages. Instead, use signs that direct specific behavior, such as shut off engines, set brakes, chock wheels, they say. Also, they argue, basing incentives on incident rates only rewards luck and can encourage employees not to report incidents for fear of losing that incentive. Instead, use an incentive program to pinpoint specific safety behaviors. This is my favorite, since it would have saved me plenty of heartache as a child, don t punish for mistakes. The authors believe that employees may not report mistakes for fear of reprisal. Also, it s important for managers to understand that while checklists help, they by themselves are not enough to change behavior. All of the authors conclusions are based on years of research and working with clients of Aubrey Daniels International. Daniels is the founder of Aubrey Daniels International (ADI), and Agnew senior vice president of safety solutions. Both are considered experts in the field of behavioral science. Through their research, they ve come to believe that companies rely too heavily on lagging indicators for safety and that going incident free is more a function of luck than a predictor of a safe organization. At a time when recent workplace accidents have resulted in injury, death, and untold environmental and economic damage, we need to rethink our safety practices using science and proven systems rather than questionable conventions, said Agnew, a workplace safety and behavior expert with more than 19 years of consulting experience. Companies that fail to take a scientific approach to human behavior are gambling with their futures and putting the lives and livelihoods of their employees and communities at risk. I have no doubt that some of what the authors say is true. In fact, a lot of it is true. Don t misunderstand, though, safety technologies have come a long way over the years and play an important role in creating safer highways in some cases even protecting us from ourselves. But, in the end, no matter how much we want to take the human element out of play, we just can t. --FleetOwner

Ask any CEO or manager and they will tell you that they place safety first. However, it is becoming obvious that this safety culture hasn t been as effective as one would believe. In the last year, there were two natural resources accidents that were headline grabbing catastrophes the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico and the Upper Big Branch mining disaster in West Virginia. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon rig, they had a safety record that was enviable. They had operated seven years without a single lost time accident or major environmental accident. By that measure, which is the same one that many mining companies use, it was a safe operation. However, investigation showed that it was an accident waiting to happen. In other words, they had been safe by accident, not intention. This new challenge to industry s safety culture is addressed in a new book, Safe by Accident, by Judy Agnew and Aubrey Daniels. The authors maintain that changes to behavior are more critical than the programs, equipment, and safety programs currently in place. Part of the problem is that there remains a trade-off between productivity and safety. Profits come from productivity and no one cares if the ounce of gold they buy comes from a safe or unsafe mine. Consequently, the worker s behavior is conditioned to think productivity first. And, if that behavior doesn t bring around an accident, that bad behavior is positively reinforced. Conversely, if workers file a safety concern, they may face reprisals, which negatively reinforce good behavior. The authors also warn about incentives based on incident rates. As was seen in the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig accident, incident rates do not indicate a safe environment, just one where safety issues are ignored and the operation has been lucky in not having a catastrophic accident. The authors also take issue with the overreliance on technology. Computers can reduce human error in the short run, but they can also reduce long term reinforcement. In other words, workers rely on computers to tell them when there is a problem instead of relying on their own behavior. One solution is to not create an adversarial relationship between the safety department and the rest of the operation. The safety department s role is the same as that of the rest of the operation assisting the organization in doing what it does, while being safe. It is not to interfere significantly with productivity or quality. If it does, then the organization isn t able to reach its potential. The ultimate answer is to make safety a habitual behavior. As the authors note, When you drive a car, you don t have to think about slowing down when you see the brake lights come on in the car in front of you. They maintain that if you have to think about safety when doing your job that means you haven t become fluent in safety behavior. And, that thinking interferes with productivity. With good safety practices and behavior, workers are naturally safe and they can focus on productivity. This, of course, isn t a one time event. It is an ongoing process of fine tuning your safety practices and instilling that behavior that makes the workplace safe and productive. What makes the Safe by Accident method different is that it doesn t see safety and productivity as philosophical adversaries. Nor does it rationalize safety in terms of preventing long term financial loses. And, it doesn t see the answer as some new piece of equipment or software. It looks at how we condition our workers to think about safety and recognizes that safe practices and productivity can be one in the same. Since it is only 162 pages long, this book is definitely one that can be read by managers --Miners News

About the Author

Dr. Judy L. Agnew is Sr. Vice President of Safety Solutions at Aubrey Daniels International (ADI). She has more than 19 years of consulting experience working with clients to create behavior-based interventions that lead to optimal and sustainable organizational change. Author of Removing Obstacles to Safety, Agnew is a recognized thought leader in the field of behavioral safety and has presented at major safety conferences, including the National Safety Council and Behavioral Safety Now.
Dr. Aubrey C. Daniels is founder of Aubrey Daniels International (ADI) and the world's leading authority on behavioral science in the workplace. He is the author of four best-selling management classics including Bringing Out the Best in People and Measure of a Leader. Daniels is a passionate thought leader and internationally recognized expert on management, leadership, and workplace issues and has received numerous awards for his work in the field of behavior analysis.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 175 pages
  • Publisher: Performance Management Publications; 1st edition (November 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0937100188
  • ISBN-13: 978-0937100189
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,794 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Do not purchase the Kindle eBook version of this book. The Kindle version of this book has poor, sloppy, and confusing formatting. The Kindle version of this book is a very poorly produced product. It does not come close to the quality of the other Kindle eBbooks that I have purchased from Amazon. I am very disappointed that Amazon would offer this poorly produced Kindle ebook for sale.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a very good book to read for any safety personnel or even managers. I highly recommend this book as part of safety professional who wants to lowering workplace accidents and workers comp. It will shade light on how most of us build our safety program but most importantly, how and what we should be doing to peoperly lower are accidents rate. This a great book to add to the next safety committee as well. Don't take my word ofr it, ready it!
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Format: Hardcover
This is a previous version of the Kindle formatted book. There is a newer version that has been edited to fix all of the Kindle formatting problems. Purchase the January 23, 2012 version to get a perfected format. Please see Safe By Accident ASIN: B0070XCZSK, 01-23-12. Thanks!
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent discussion and rationale for the techniques described. Rarely do you find a safety book that delves into human behaviour and motivation and is able to provide proven solutions for everyday safety situations. I have both Kindle and hard copy versions of this title. Highly recommended for any safety professional that wants to drive a positive and effective safety culture.
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Format: Hardcover
There are a few common themes in this book: actual accidents where someone is injured are fairly rare events, so trying to judge safety policies by incident rate leads to a large random chance factor. Instead, safe behaviors need to be encouraged through Positive Immediate Certain consequences rather than Negative Future Uncertain consequences. These ideas really made me stop and think about not only safety management, but also quality management, and how are daily management practices form perceptions about what the real priorities are.

On the negative side, the formatting of the Kindle version was atrocious. Words were run together, or randomly broken apart. I also tired of the plugs for Behavioral Science (the phrase "behavioral science is a science" was repeated more than once), yet despite behavioral science being a science, I found the actual amount of data presented to be sparse.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It seems ninety five percent of workplace safety books are built on anecdotal evidence. This book eloquently brings the hard analysis of behavioral science to the squishy world of human workplace safety. And it makes...so...much...sense. A must read for any safety professional or any leader in manufacturing, healthcare, construction, etc.
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