Information on a slip that caused severe damage to an electrical contractor in Newcastle in August 2013 was recently released by Great Britain’s Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Though this incident didn’t make the front pages of the newspaper, it is representative of many of the injury investigations which we facilitate using the Cause Mapping method.
The first step in the Cause Mapping method of root cause analysis is to capture the what, when and where of the incident and the impacts to the organizational goals. In this case, the what (contractor slip and hand injury), when (August 30, 2013) and where (a moving conveyor at a baguette manufacturer in Leeds) are captured, as well as any differences and the task being performed at the time of the incident. There were two notable differences during the incident as compared to an “average” day that should also be noted: the safety guard had been removed from the conveyor and ice had accumulated on the floor. These differences may or may not be causally related to the incident. Additionally, the task being performed (cleaning up after contract electrical work) is captured as it, too, may be causally related to the incident.
The impacts to the goals are analogous to what stood in the way of a perfect day. A serious injury involving the partial amputation of two fingers and the injury of a third is an impact to the safety goal in this example. The £8,500 fine levied by the HSE is an impact to the regulatory goal. The worker had four weeks off work due to the injury, which is an impact to the labor goal. It is unclear if any other goals were impacted by this incident.
Once at least one impact to the goals has been determined, asking “why” questions helps us complete the second step, or analysis. In the analysis, we capture cause-and-effect relationships that map out the issues that led to the incident. In this case, the injury was caused by the contractor’s hand striking an unprotected drive chain on a moving conveyor. This occurred because the hand struck the area, the drive chain was unprotected, and the conveyor was moving. All three of these causes had to occur for the resulting injury.
The contractor’s hand struck the area because of a slip on an icy floor. Ice from an open freezer door (which appeared to be malfunctioning) had built up and had not been removed. The drive chain was unprotected because the safety guard had been removed from the conveyor, which was moving likely due to normal operations.
According to Shuna Rank, the HSE inspector, “This worker’s injuries should not and need not have happened. This incident was easily preventable had Country Style Foods Ltd ensured safety guards were in place on the machinery. The company should also have taken steps to prevent the accumulation of ice on the freezer floor. Guards and safety systems are there for a reason, and companies have a legal duty of care to ensure they are properly fitted and working effectively at all times. Slips and trips are the biggest cause of major injuries in the food and drink industry with 37% of all major accidents in the industry being as a result of slips.”
The inspector’s quote clearly identifies the areas for improvement that could reduce the risk of similar incidents occurring. Namely, the manufacturer must ensure that damage resulting in ice buildup is fixed as soon as possible and that in the meantime, ice is regularly cleared away and the area is marked as a slip hazard. If a safety guard is removed for any reason, the conveyor should not be operating until it has been replaced properly. Ensuring that equipment is in proper working order is essential to reduce the risk to workers such as the injuries demonstrated in this case.
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