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Reactive vs. Proactive Safety Strategies

Don't just react to safety

It's sad but true - some companies have adopted an approach to safety and health that emphasizes a reactive strategy. A reactive approach assumes that accidents just happen, and there's not much that can be done about it. Consequently, the company places most of its effort reacting to accidents after they occur. A reactive response occurs after an injury or illness and usually has the purpose of minimizing the costs associated with the injury or illness. Reactive safety programs always cost much more than proactive programs...always...because they aren't implemented until an injury or illness has occurred. When management emphasizes a reactive approach to safety and health, it sends two negative messages to employees, (1) we don't care about you, and (2) it's all about money, not your safety. Here are some examples of reactive safety programs.

Be business smart...be proactive

A proactive strategy emphasizes proaction: doing whatever it takes to make sure accidents never happen in the workplace. There are no excuses for an accident. A proactive response to safety and health in the workplace occurs before an accident has occurred. It anticipates and tries to prevent accidents. By emphasizing accident prevention, management sends a message of caring to all employees. Proactive strategies are always less expensive than reactive strategies because the company makes investments that result in potentially huge returns. Remember, proactive programs are implemented to prevent future injuries and illnesses. Here are some examples of proactive safety and health programs.

Goals and objectives

So now you have a mission statement developed. The next step is to think of some proactive goals and objectives to improve your company's safety and health program.

Goals are easy to write. They're nothing more than wishes. However, operational objectives take a little more thought. Well written objectives should have the following elements present:

  • Starts with an action verb. (Decrease, increase, improve, etc.)
  • Specifies a single key result to be accomplished.
  • Is quantifiable. Uses numbers to measure a desired change. (i.e., 50% increase)
  • Specifies a target date for accomplishment.

For example, operational safety objectives might be written like this:
  • "Increase the number of safety suggestions to 25 a month by July 31st."
  • "Reduce the number of back injuries in the warehouse by 70% by the end of 1997."

Remember to work with the safety committee to share the goals and objectives with everyone in the company. By the end of this course you should be able to think of many more ways to increase management commitment.

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