For more than 20 years, I worked for commercial insurance companies and a municipal insurance pool as a safety consultant and met with hundreds of organizations. My personal experience provides neither formal research nor any statistical analysis, but my observations have brought me to some conclusions regarding successful safety programs. Based on my recollections, and taking a general and broad view, I put all the organizations I've worked with into one of three categories regarding the status of their safety program:

  • 30% have a formal functioning program

  • 40% have a partial program

  • 30% have little or no formal program

These same organizations I also put into one of three categories for their safety loss record:

  • 30% consistently perform above average

  • 40% consistently perform at about average

  • 30% consistently perform below average

What is fascinating to me is that where a company is on the first list is not a good predictor of where they will be on the second and vice versa. Yes there is a correlation between the lists, but much less than I expected or that my employers were willing to concede. There is something more than a formal safety program which leads to better than average loss results – it is that subjective thing we call "safety culture." Organizations with a good safety culture tend to also have functioning safety programs and organizations with a poor safety culture tend to not have functioning safety programs, however the type of safety culture cannot be determined by examining only the safety program. There are simply too many exceptions.

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