December 10, 2019 2 min read

The talk about “zero injuries” has ranged from the ridiculous to the sublime. Yes, you should not have a tolerance for accidents, ergo set a goal of zero. Yes, it is not acceptable to hurt ANYONE, ergo set a goal of zero.

However, a goal is not a strategy. A goal is not a call to action or a roadmap to success. Bottom line, zero injuries is a reactive definition of excellence. Zero is not what you should do nor is it what you should not do. It is the desired outcome, not the game plan. It is the coach telling the team at half time “Don’t lose!”

True safety excellence is not a lofty goal or dream of perfection. It is a strategic approach to a specific challenge. The approach must be prescriptive and predictive. It must involve specific approaches to foster greater knowledge, skills and involvement. It must communicate and inspire discretionary effort from those involved. It must include meaningful metrics that are leading indicators and give each worker a way to rate his or her own performance on a daily basis.

Simply saying “Zero Injuries” is none of these. It is just a good sounding slogan which is temporarily accomplished by luck or normal variation more often than it is permanently accomplished by solid strategy and execution.

-Terry L. Mathis

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Terry L. Mathis is the founder and CEO of ProAct Safety, an international safety and performance excellence firm. He is known for his dynamic presentations in the fields of behavioral and cultural safety, leadership, and operational performance, and is a regular speaker at ASSE, NSC, and numerous company and industry conferences.

EHS Today listed Terry as a Safety Guru in ‘The 50 People Who Most Influenced EHS in 2010, 2011 and 2012-2013.

He has been a frequent contributor to industry magazines for over 15 years and is the coauthor of STEPS to Safety Culture Excellence, 2013, WILEY.

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