According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2015 the occupational fatal injury rate in the United States was 3.4 (BLS, 2016). This represents a disappointing lack of change over the previous years' occupational fatal injury rates, with the average occupational fatal injury rate in the United States remaining at 3.4 since 2008, according to analysis of data found on the Bureau of Labor Statistics' website. Others within the safety profession have noted this stagnation of fatal incident statistics (Dekker & Pitzer, 2016; Loud, 2016; Manuele, 2013), each noting that progress in safety, as measured by the number of major accidents, appears to have plateaued. In a review of fatal injury rates in the United States conducted by the author, although the fatal injury rate has declined 35% from 1994 to 2015, in the last 10 years (2006– 2015), the fatal injury rate has only dropped by 15.8%.
This plateauing of fatal injury rates suggests that progress in preventing major accidents may have the features of an asymptote, a line that approaches a curve but never touches it. As Dekker (2015, 28) notes, "asymptotes point to dying strategies." The strategies utilized to achieve the progress in preventing major accidents are providing diminishing returns. As a result, calls for new approaches to safety management have grown (Dekker, 2015; Dekker & Pitzer, 2016; Hollnagel, 2014; Hollnagel, Woods, & Leveson, 2006; Loud, 2016; Manuele, 2013).
Safety Differently grew out of these calls, as safety researchers began to realize that traditional approaches were growing increasingly inadequate to deal with the complex realities of the work processes of today (Dekker, 2015; Hollnagel, 2014; Hollnagel, Woods, & Leveson, 2006; Hummerdal, 2017). Building upon decades of research in social and safety sciences, Safety Differently seeks to develop a more proactive, productive, and inclusive approach to safety management. Traditional safety management approaches tend to focus primarily on the prevention of negatives (Hollnagel, 2014). By contrast, Safety Differently seeks to identify and learn from things that go well as a means to not only prevent or minimize the negatives, but also to achieve more successful outcomes. This paper provides an overview of the Safety Differently approach, the basic tenets of Safety Differently, and recommendations for implementing a Safety Differently approach within an organization.