It sometimes seems that every news report brings stories of fatal accidents across our commonwealth, both in daily life and at work. The science of risk management can, however, provide a strong dose of sensitization to certain kinds of situations when things go haywire, but it requires a discipline of focused attention to absorb the lessons and change our behavior accordingly.

Regrettably, we live in increasingly hurried times, and these fragile lessons of mortality often go unheeded. Here’s a summary of advice to help keep you safe:

  • After substance abuse, suicides and homicides, the category of automotive fatality continues in the lead. Distracted driving is at or near the top of the list of evils. Advice: put your phone down and leave it alone when driving.

  • Driving safety tip: Never stop or even slow suddenly in a travel lane. Double the intensity of this directive when driving on interstate highways.

  • If you break down, hit an animal, or are otherwise disabled in a travel lane, immediately exit your vehicle and move away from the collision field. If you are caught in this kind of situation, try to create some type of upstream warning to oncoming motorists, such as lighting several road flares (part of your emergency kit), or at least waving a white flag.

  • A high percentage of auto accidents occur in and around intersections. There are four parts to an intersection. Use appropriate caution when approaching, entering, transiting and exiting any intersection. This includes interstate highway interchanges. Avoid travel in the right hand lane through an interchange. Vehicles on entrance ramps do not always merge properly; stay in a less encumbered lane.

  • The largest category of auto crashes is caused by following too closely: rear-end collisions. The antidote is found in the basic four-second following distance formula.

  • OSHA and VOSH (our occupational “safety police”) have what are known as the Focus Four, also called the Fatal Four: 1.Falls 2.Electrocutions 3.Caught in or between 4.Struck-By Accidents. These account for nearly two-thirds of all construction fatalities (other than transportation). Construction sites have a protocol to manage these four perils, called Job Hazard Analysis. This process is the gold standard for accident avoidance, and should be used more uniformly in all types of occupational deployments, particularly where crews are self-directed.

  • Factory work is a little more controlled but has its own protocols, namely Lock Out Tag Out, machine and process safeguarding, materials handling (i.e. fork lifts) and a few other bedrock rules.

  • If you’re in business for the long haul, take a hard look at your machinery, tooling, safety program, employee training and skills development, and succession planning. For example, vintage machinery usually does not have basic safety features. Unless you retrofit, it’s time to go shopping. Put the antiques out to pasture. Hospitalizations and amputations require direct reporting to the “safety police” and will probably result in high-dollar, wish-you-had-listened outcomes. Following many industrial accidents, investigations reveal the persistence of “denial” among management as one of the greatest safety hazards to all workers. If you are of the opinion that “all this safety stuff costs money,” wait until you see the cost of an accident.

  • Joggers, walkers, bikers and hikers, when you venture out wear a high-visibility garment such as those worn by construction workers. Again, the lesson here derives from accident reports: “I never saw them” is the number one answer to “What happened?”

In summary, a safety mindset can range from the simplest look-both-ways-before-crossing adage to the more intricate high-risk job planning choreography.

Contact John Meola at

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