It’s not about the numbers

Nancy Grossman
Photo: Reidar Hahn

Nancy Grossman, head of the ES&H section, wrote this week’s column.

For those of us working at Fermilab, it is hard not to focus on numbers. We like numbers and we think we understand them. But, do we? When it comes to injury statistics, the numbers aren’t always clear. Low numbers can either mean that you have a good program in place that keeps your personnel safe or it can mean people are getting hurt but are afraid to report their injuries.

The ES&H culture at Fermilab has improved significantly during the last 10 years. Employees now place higher importance on accomplishing a task without injury or incident. Good performance is not just how well you did something or how fast it was completed, but if it was completed without incident.

This focus, however, can help foster the idea that incidents shouldn’t be reported. Line supervisors in the field might perceive that they have failed if one of their group members is injured. The truth is that reporting injuries and near misses will help others in the group. It will also help other groups within that division, section and center or groups throughout the laboratory that do similar work. Learning from one another, both about the good we do and the mistakes we make, will help to strengthen our program. For that open reporting culture to exist, we must be open minded and willing to evaluate incidents to determine how to prevent them from happening again.

Help make our ES&H program consist of open-minded communication. We want no injuries and no reported injuries to be synonymous. Please help us in the effort to reach Goal Zero.