Zero Based Thinking and Safety

Recently Performance Solutions by Milliken published an article describing Zero Loss or Zero Based Thinking. This thinking supposes that when we use standard thinking when we create budgets, we tend to build failures and losses into our budgets which inherently drive costs higher than they should be. If we design failure into our budget, we never explore the possibilities of having no failures. If we consider the possibility of zero failures, we explore avenues that could actually lead us to eliminating failures and ultimately reducing cost.

How does this type of thinking relate to safety? Zero loss thinking tells us that every incident is preventable. It tells us that there is no such thing as an “accident”, that everything happens by chance. Every single incident has a root cause. If we accept more than zero as an acceptable level of incidents, then we will not search for a root cause for incidents. In the case of defects or mechanical breakdowns, we scour the process for a cause to eliminate the failure. Using Zero Based thinking, we dig for the root causes of incidents and eliminate them. As we eliminate root causes, we eliminate incidents.

If we can eliminate losses or consider zero as a goal in manufacturing losses (defects, breakdowns, etc.), why can we not apply this same thought process to safety and eliminate injuries? When companies set a goal of more than zero injuries or zero Total Incident Rate (TIR), they accept that a member of their organization will have his or her life altered by an injury. If we accept anything over zero as a goal, we stop looking to eliminate incidents and accept that someone will get hurt. We accept that someone will go home to his or her family not the same way they left his or her family. Using the Zero Based approach, we uncover and eliminate hazards where they were accepted before. The watchwords “Let’s be careful out there” become “Let’s find and eliminate the hazards out there.”

Companies that apply the Zero Thinking principles to safety show a dramatic decrease in incident rates. They also show an increase in morale and productivity. Doing the work to improve safety also improves the overall workplace.

Zero Loss Thinking is a great concept that has improved quality, efficiency, and productivity in many companies. This same thinking can apply to safety and improve the safety process in manufacturing companies, office complexes, hospitals, or any other company.

How does your team view safety? Do you or your team accept that people will get hurt no matter what you do? Explore Zero Based thinking as it applies to safety to see real results. Performance Solutions by Milliken can help you see zero in a new way.

Bill Kelsey is a Practitioner with Performance Solutions by Milliken. His areas of focus when working with clients are Safety, Skills Education, and 5S. Bill has experience in Safety, Plant Optimization, LEAN, Industrial Engineering, Human Resources, and Production Management.

His email is Bill.Kelsey@Milliken.com.

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