ASSE speaker bares new paradigm in injury prevention

BALTIMORE – Lost-time injury rates are declining, yet the number of fatal injuries are either remaining the same or increasing. This trend is causing a paradigm shift in safety management and injury prevention, according to one safety management expert.

Speaking to attendees of the American Society of Safety Engineers’ Safety 2010 Conference and Expo, Thomas Krause, co-founder of safety management consulting firm BST, says current statistics showing decreasing lost-time injury but increasing fatal injuries run counter to the traditional teaching embodied in the safety triangle — preventing smaller injuries leads to preventing serious or fatal injuries.


“How could this happen?” Krause asked of the current trend in injury statistics. “The idea that smaller injuries predict larger ones is embedded in our culture.” Yet current statistics in many organizations are painting a different picture, he added.


In his session entitled, Rethinking Traditional Approaches to High-Severity and Fatal Events, Krause said the trend in injury rates for fatal injuries are causing organizations to seek a new approach to the prevention paradigm. 


Krause said this new approach does not necessarily deviate from the teaching of the safety pyramid, first introduced by H.W. Heinrich in the 1930s. Rather, the new paradigm took certain useful elements from the old triangle concept and discarded those that are irrelevant.  


Krause’s concept of the new paradigm focuses on identifying “precursor events” and developing interventions to prevent fatal injuries.


Precursor events are those that have a high probability of resulting in serious injury or fatality if repeated, he explained.


The traditional approach embodied in the safety triangle concept focused on classification of injuries that doesn’t really tell anything about the event and the significance of that particular event.


“We worry about minor things,” said Krause.


Tracking serious injuries and fatalities as a category and defining what a “serious injury” is would amplify the numbers and provide organizations with useful data that can help identify precursor events.


The new paradigm begins with the idea that not all minor injuries are the same, Krause said. “Injuries of different severity have different underlying causes.”


In implementing this new paradigm, Krause said data analysis should be done at the corporate level — understanding where there are exposures and where there are precursor events. Designing interventions in relation to these exposures and precursor events, on the other hand, should be done at the site level, he said.


Krause said he is currently working with a task force comprised of seven big organizations from various industry sectors to develop a global strategy in the prevention of serious and fatal injuries. For more information on Krause’s work, visit the BST website at


The ASSE Safety 2010 Conference and Expo is being held in this city this week. More than 400 exhibitors and thousands of health and safety professionals are participating in this annual event.