The ripple effect causes unforeseen problems


An accident in the workplace is the same as casting a stone into a pond, observes Hasmate Ltd Director and health and safety expert Gordon Anderson.

Over the past 18 months there has been a lot of discussion about the importance of business culture for effective health and safety management and the positive impact on productivity, staff morale and other not so obvious gains.

For many, the concept of health and safety being a positive for improving productivity and the bottom line is a foreign concept and in some cases hard to believe.

To illustrate this, I suggest a simple exercise based on the following scenario.

Involve your management team, H&S reps and or your employees as a training exercise to stress the ripple effect of an accident and the importance of health and safety and the possible impacts.

Imagine you own and operate a large engineering and truck repair workshop employing 45 staff.

An employee has been crushed and died in the workshop when a suspended motor slipped off a lifting chain when it snapped.

The employee had worked for the business for 12 years as a mechanic, he was a 45-year-old Maori, a workshop supervisor, married with four children and the father of two other employees, a senior member of his church and his local community.

It was identified during the investigation that the chain had not been certified or tested.

Your objectives

  1. To identify all the different persons, organisations or others who will be impacted or involved as the result of this tragedy.
  2. To have all the circles filled in.
  3. To involve the group in an open discussion and to identify areas for improvement in your business.

Recommended process

  1. This can be completed individually in small groups of 2-3 or as team effort. If the team approach is used I suggest that you allow some individual time for each person to consider the impact.
  2. Copy the comments to an A3 size paper.
  3. Give the teams 30 minutes to enter the accident in the centre circle and then to enter in the next layer of circles an affected person or other parties that are directly or indirectly affected or involved – e.g. lawyers, florists, accountant, schools, insurance companies, Worksafe NZ, ACC, Banks, newspapers etc.
  4. Continue outwards as if it’s a ripple effect like a stone thrown into a pond until all the circles are completed.
  5. When finished, complete a master copy by asking each group/team in rotation to state who they identified. It’s a sobering account of the impact.

It has been estimated that the cost to the economy for accidents in the New Zealand workplace is about three billion dollars per annum.

In this accident, what is the potential financial cost to the victim, their family the business industry and society?

The purpose of this exercise is to drive home the point that the impact of any accident, regardless how serious it is, is also like the iceberg effect.

It’s not only what is obvious on the surface but all the other contributing factors, parties, individuals and society that are impacted by the event.