I spent much of last week in the mountains of Montana, attending and speaking at the Montana Governors' Conference on Workers' Compensation. It was a great event held at Big Sky Resort; probably one of the most beautiful conference locations I've ever attended. It also provided one of the best safety messages I've ever heard.
It was provided by Peter Federko, CEO of the Saskatchewan Workers' Compensation Board, the monopolistic agency that manages workers' comp in that Canadian Province. Federko's session was entitled “Injury Prevention: Importance of Leadership in Creating Cultural Change”. He spoke of their attempts in making changes to the safety culture in his Province; not just in the workplace, but for personal safety as well. Federko told the audience that studies showed Saskatchewan employers were paying far more in sick time and disability benefits for “off work” injuries than they were for those that occurred in the workplace. Furthermore, he indicated that the employers were not paying attention to this, and had no idea that home based and off time accidents were affecting their bottom line in such a negative manner. This was compounded by the fact that Saskatchewan had one of the highest per capita accident rates in the nation. He covered in detail the things they have done to try and reverse that trend.
Their WorkSafe Saskatchewan program contains many of the informational services you would expect in a Safety and Prevention program, including a mascot named “WorkSafe Bob” (and really, how can you not immediately like and trust anything named Bob?). However, the truly innovative message Federko delivered was based in a program developed as part of WorkSafe Saskatchewan; a program called Mission: Zero. Mission: Zero quite simply sets the goal of “Zero” injuries and “Zero” fatalities for the Province.
Federko addressed the criticisms of a program with such a seemingly improbable goal. He related a story about an actuary discussing a prediction of 18 fatalities for a particular time frame, and making the comment that “18 isn't too bad”. Federko's response to him was, “Yes, but would you want to be one of the eighteen?” In fact, Federko questioned the Montana audience on how many deaths and injuries are acceptable, and pointedly asked them, “Even if there is only one death in the state, do you want to be that one?” His conclusion was that even a single injury or death is not acceptable, so therefore the only logical goal is a continuous effort to strive for the number zero.
The Mission: Zero program is far more than a stated goal of no injuries or fatalities. It is a program designed to involve key stakeholders and actively work toward the end mission. They are seeking to change the safety culture in the communities where they live. They have hundreds of employers who have signed on as Charter Members of the program, and they meet at least annually to discuss trends and issues related to safety and accident prevention. They have involved professional sports teams to help spread the word. They have an aggressive advertising campaign with some hard hitting videos driving the implications of carelessness home to their population.
The poster thumbnails below link to two of the posters from Mission: Zero, demonstrating the emphasis on safety both for work and home.
You can see more in the innovative collection at
The point I took away from this presentation is that preventing injuries and deaths from unintended accidents will take more than a slick marketing campaign. It will take more than lip service of a few key players. It requires a change in the culture of the community, be it a workplace or neighborhood. The culture is the key, and a goal of zero injuries and fatalities IS the only acceptable number that conveys the message to the masses. For that reason a comprehensive program like Mission: Zero stands a chance to succeed where others may fail. It involves an entire community in an effort to bring a realization to the programs simple yet effective tagline: “Zero injuries, zero fatalities, zero suffering”.
After all, even one injury or death is too many.