Blaming the Victims of Workplace Accidents

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Summary Statement

As in this clip, many employers today (and in the past) blame workplace accidents on workers rather than look at hazardous job conditions. In the past, based on this attitude, workers were often openly called stupid, careless and accident-prone and blamed as the cause of their injuries. With this approach, the result of most accident investigations is to blame the injured worker and the solution is to tell the worker to be more careful. This approach ignores the role of managers and employers in making key decisions in the workplace they control. However these days, this older harsh language is replaced by so called behavior-based safety programs based on the claim that 80 to 96 percent of job injuries and illnesses are caused by workers' own unsafe acts. This number has been discredited by many other studies which identify the key role of the work environment in safety and health. Behavior-based safety programs focus attention on worker carelessness and conscious or unconscious unsafe behaviors, and place the onus for a safe workplace on workers themselves. The "unsafe worker" statistics espoused by behavior-based safety consultants and repeated by employers purchasing or developing behavioral safety programs were derived from the work of insurance investigator H.W. Heinrich in the 1930s. Heinrich's research into injury causation consisted of his review of supervisors' accident reports, which critics pointed out naturally blame workers for accidents and injuries. He arrived at the statistic that 88 percent of workplace accidents and worker injuries were caused by workers' unsafe acts, numbers echoed by today's behavioral safety programs.
1934

31 secs.
Safety and Health Trainers
Civilian Conservation Corps