Zero Accident Culture

Create and Set Goals to Reduce Workplace Injury

A discussion on the process of setting appropriate goals to achieve a Zero Accident Culture.

John Wayhart

By now, your organization’s goals have been set for safety initiatives and have been approved with the appropriate accountability for performance in place. Or have they?

Are You Kidding Me?

Less than 5 percent of companies in heavy industry establish safety performance goals, communicate these goals to everyone in the organization and hold the appropriate people accountable for results. While we know safety programs can make an impact on bottom line profitability, these programs aren’t grouped in with others that create a financial impact for the organization. Conversely, more than 95 percent of companies have sales, revenue, expense, hiring and client retention goals for the upcoming year.

If you haven’t set goals, or if you’re not sure you’ve set the right goals, now is the time to get a move on it. Goal setting allows an organization to redefine their place within their industry segment, their community and importantly within their own workforce. Below outlines a few steps to take when creating goals to make sure they are achievable.

Visualize Success

Close your eyes. Visualize yourself on a route with one of your waste haulers. Can you envision when and how accidents could occur at every point along the way? Predictability is at the core of achieving a Zero Accident Culture. You can eliminate the word ‘accident’ through visualization of possible threats. Once you know something, or anticipate an incident occurring, you can prevent it from happening. Think about it in terms of sports. NASCAR drivers typically visualize their course of action before they hit the gas. They visualize every angle and bump in the road. They visualize themselves crossing the finish line. You can do the same.

Through this visualization process, make a list of all of the potential hazards. Once these are solidified, work backwards to set appropriate goals to eliminate the incident. For example, one of the potential hazards on a hauling route during bad weather months are slip, trip and falls from enter/exit the truck cabs and serious back injury from improper leverage and lifting techniques. By continuous training for awareness and visualizing successful outcomes these injuries could most likely be avoided.

Also, make it a goal to address and readdress seasonal occupational hazards and begin to achieve reduction in loss frequency and severity.

Be Specific

Whatever your safety performance goals will be in 2012, make sure they are specific. For example, you could answer the questions like:

  • How many fatalities do you expect to have in 2012?

  • How many back surgeries from improper body mechanics?

  • How many lessons learned from loss in 2011 need to be reminded about in 2012?

  • How about crushing injuries from being caught in a piece of equipment?

  • Auto crashes from rear ending? Backing up?

  • Average LWDS per LT Case?

  • Minimum Experience Modification Factor? What is yours and do you have a plan to obtain it?

  • How many people in my company work toward a Zero Accident Workday – Everyday

  • How close to 100 percent is our company working toward creating a Zero Accident Culture?

As I mentioned in the first article in this series, one of the greatest safety goals for the entire Waste Industry in 2012 and beyond should be to become obsolete in being recognized as one of the Top Ten Most Dangerous Jobs (currently #7).1

When starting my career in 1982, goal setting was one of the core foundational building blocks of ZAC. If I heard another person responsible for a company’s safety program cheerfully state, “We are going to reduce our losses by 50 percent” one more time I was going to lose my mind! My natural response was, “What about zero?” Their reply was that it was not realistic.

Then, as we began to evaluate the cause and effect of the loss history and whether there was a predictability of loss involved in each incident, we began to visualize that zero accidents was indeed a reality. When you can begin to predict where someone will become injured on the job, you can set the appropriate procedures and processes to remove the term “accident” (because it was predictable), reduce injuries and begin to clearly define your safety, operational and financial goals.

When asked about setting goals and business strategy, Peter Drucker defined the Guiding Principle of Business: “The first duty of business is to survive and the guiding principle of business economy is not the maximization of profit; it’s the avoidance of loss” (Peter Drucker, 1954, The Practice of Management).

It’s Time to Step Up and Put the Pedal to the Metal

Once you’ve identified potential hazards and set specific goals to reduce or remove the hazards, the next step is to outline specific processes to eliminate the possibility of someone getting injured in the same way again. Eliminate the possibility of the same accident occurring twice, one incident at a time.

Predict, Prevent, Prosper

Achieving a Zero Accident Culture doesn’t happen overnight. Once you have your leadership team on board and specific, achievable goals set, it’s time to communicate them in a meaningful way. The goals you establish and how they are communicated can help rejuvenate a company’s safety initiatives and direction. We’ll talk more about this in next month’s article.

John Wayhart is a Senior Vice President at Assurance Agency, Ltd. (Schaumburg, IL). With more than 29 years in the insurance and risk management industry, his expertise lies in providing solutions for a wide range of businesses including the waste and recycling industry. John can be reached at (847) 463-7161 or via e-mail at [email protected]. Zero Accident Culture® is a registered trademark.


  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.