Safety & HCM Post

Why A Common Sense Approach to Safety Won’t Work

Basing a safety program around having workers use their common sense to avoid injury won’t work, according to Pam (Ferrante) Walaski, a certified safety professional and certified hazardous materials manager.

“My common sense is based upon my life experiences, my values and my perceptions. And it’s not the same as yours,” says Walaski, president of JC Safety & Environmental Inc. in Pittsburgh, PA. “Is that really what you want to base your safety program on?”

She says while worker behavior is relevant to safety, the foundation of the system is more important than controls over worker behavior.

Walaski advocates a risk assessment approach to managing workplace incidents, which involves assessing risks and designing systems to reduce them to an acceptable level. The emphasis is on preventing incidents by designing them out.

Walaski says two voluntary standards that can guide organizations toward implementing effective safety and health management systems are ANSI/ASSE Z10-2005 (Occupational Safety and Health Management Systems) and ANSI/ASSE Z590.3 (Prevention Through Design) documents.

Originally planned to be a resource for smaller business, ANSI Z10 is a guidance document, not a certification standard. It follows a “Plan, Do, Check, Act” process for continuous improvement whereby risks are reviewed and prioritized, measures are developed to address those risks, the process is audited and finally, revised as needed.

The standard deals with management of change—deviations from normal operations—which are “a significant predictor of serious incidents,” says Walaski.

Examples might include:

  • Changes in raw materials/feedstock,
  • Changes in a plant’s physical layout that affect exit routes,
  • Installation of new equipment,
  • Modification of new equipment,
  • Changes in electrical service, and
  • Personnel changes in key positions.

According to Walaski, many organizations don’t use incident investigations to their advantage. Effective incident investigations are comprehensive, with clear policies and procedures and user-friendly forms.

The investigations provide training for staff at all levels of an organization, near misses are reported and investigated and there’s an ongoing follow-up of corrective action.

The other ANSI-ASSE standard that can help companies design and implement an effective safety and health management system is ANSI/ASSE Z590.3: Prevention Through Design.

The goal is to prevent or reduce occupational injuries, illness and fatalities by incorporating occupational safety and health considerations in designs concepts within an occupational safety and health management system, according to Walaski.

To get started, she suggests purchasing the Z10-2005 standard (from the ASSE website at and using it to move “from where you are to where you need to be.”

Walaski says Z10 can really help small organizations and it can benefit anyone who has a basic understanding of safety.

Bongarde Editorial

Bongarde Editorial

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