Missing the Boat: Standards, Regulations, and Compliance Are Not Enough. Making Safety and Operations Risk Strategies Sustainable.

Missing the Boat: Standards, Regulations, and Compliance Are Not Enough

Making Safety and Operations Risk Strategies Sustainable


On July 24, 1915, the SS Eastland capsized at dock, killing more passengers than the Titanic. The cause? Reacting to the Titanic disaster and attempting to prevent it in the future, the international maritime safety officials declared a “lifeboats-for-all” movement. The US Congress followed, passing the LaFollette Seaman’s Act requiring enough lifeboats to accommodate 75 percent of a ship’s passengers. That morning in 1915, the SS Eastland was preparing to depart with a newly-added five lifeboats (to its original six), 37 life rafts, and enough life jackets for all aboard. Not 30 minutes into boarding, the vessel started listing, finally capsizing under the extra weight of the safety equipment. Noted by the Smithsonian, “It was in compliance with the standards of the law. And that created a serious hazard.”


Reactive Strategies for a Dynamic Safety and Operations Risk Situation

From ANSI and BSI to OSHA, the reality is that safety and operations risk management strategies have developed from reactive and prescriptive standards and regulations. These standards focus on the processes and procedures to drive organizational excellence in safety and operations risk. But in their reactivity and rigidity, they often times fail to account for the fluid, dynamic nature of operations, and thus, create a finite limitation to their applicability and effectiveness.


Yet, from these regulations emerge the basic safety and operations risk management strategies of today. And like the regulations and standards they emanate from, they too focus on process-driven, policy-centric methodologies to ensure safe and optimal operating conditions. But is that truly creating safety and managing operations risk in organizations?


Moving Beyond the “Standard”

As in the SS Eastlake, standards and regulations – and thereby compliance with and strategies from – often miss a crucial component: the workforce. During the regulatory discussions, workers voiced concern on the regulation without the context of the vessel to which it would be applied; their voice was not heard and their insight was missed. Similarly lacking context, it is often noted and cited by various HSE resources that the cause of safety accidents and increased operations risk is human error. There is a clear mismatch as the process-driven, policy-centric methodologies prescribed miss the single element most attributed to as the cause – the workforce.


As many have come to appreciate, human error is not a root cause but a symptom of a broken system deeper within the organization. Being a critical element in most historical safety incidents, it aligns that if today’s strategies are not addressing the workforce, human error will still play a large part in the cause of these safety and risk incidents. In further support, it is also noted that process-driven, policy-centric methodologies possess inherent limitations called latent organizational weaknesses. These weaknesses create “…flawed defenses and error precursors within organizations.”1 As seen historically, when these processes and procedures fail, workers are left to make final decisions, often inadequately.


Creating Sustainable Safety and Operations Risk Strategies

Industry bodies, research, and practitioners are acknowledging the need to transition from process-driven and policy-centric strategies to work-centric methodologies. Various studies, research, and real results indicate that such a transition propels organizations not only to higher performance and organizational excellence but also long-term sustainability and competitive advantage.


Transitioning to a worker-centric strategy overcomes today’s shortcomings by comprehensively merging the standards, policies, and processes together with the people responsible for execution on a day-to-day basis. It enables “workers to have more situational awareness concerning their safety, error traps present, tasks to be performed, and conditions/surroundings.”1 Most importantly, such worker-centric methodologies ensure communication to the entire workforce, cultivating and maintaining the culture of safety that prevents accidents when processes and policies fail.


As the leading workforce-centric safety and operations risk management solution, MySafety proactively captures those critical real-time actionable operational insights required to reduce failures and improve safety. These insights empower workers across every level of an organization to make more intelligent operational decisions with less risk in the thousands of choices they encounter each day. Designed to close the loop between process and person, MySafety delivers detailed insights which give every business the intelligence they need to best ensure sustainable safety and operations risk management strategies and business outcomes.

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1    Wachter, Jan K., and Patrick L. Yorio. “A System of Safety Management Practices and Worker Engagement for Reducing and Preventing Accidents: An Empirical and Theoretical Investigation.” Accident Analysis & Prevention 68 (2014): 117-30. Web.