“Zero Accidents”- Why it’s not realistic and just a pipe dream

Dec 10, 2019

I am sure you have heard of “Zero accidents”…but is it realistic or just a pipe dream?

A pipe dream is defined (Ref: Merriam Webster Dictionary) as: 

“An illusory or fantastic plan, hope, or story“.
I guess we have all seen those images of “Zero Accidents”, “Zero Incidents”, “Zero Harm”…blah blah..

If we explore the concept of Zero Accidents using the “SMART” analogy where SMART stands for “Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely“, we can all say that zero accidents is attainable but it has to be relative to time.

For example:  I could say that I’m going to have zero accidents in the next 10 seconds or the next minute and that is realistic.  But is it realistic to say say zero accidents in terms of manufacturing operations or process plants?

You may be familiar with some of the Blogs and Vogs that I’ve done on “What is risk and the equation equation”?

The risk equation is essentially made up of two parts:  Consequences and Likelihood.

If we are looking for “Zero Accidents”, in effect we are saying that the equation must give us an outcome that is zero. For this to be valid, the likelihood aspect has to be an “absolute” zero since we have the consequences part (i.e., harm).

Can Likelihood ever be absolute zero if the event is possible/ probable?

It was Einstein who said that “God does not play dice”.

However, I do like the extension by Stephen Hawking where he says “God does play dice, but sometimes he confuses us by throwing them where we can’t see them”.

Hence when it comes to risk assessments, I can only refer back to my “Golden Rule for Risk Assessments”...Don’t Assume.

For me, when it comes to “Zero Accidents”…it’s just a Pipe Dream because I don’t deal with facilities or process plant operations in terms of seconds, not even weeks but more in terms of months and years.

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