Safety Bob
Safety Management Consultants


TALK #17

Critical-Event Safety
What Will You Do at That Critical Moment ?

The action you take at the critical instant just before an accident may mean life or death

There was an actual, and heartbreaking, accident involving a nearly fully-loaded dump truck and a small vehicle, which provides a tragic example of the concept of Critical-Event Safety. It also illustrates that this accident did not have to have a disastrous ending.

The accident occurred when the dump truck traveling at approximately 40 mph swerved to the left at the critical instant just before possibly crashing into the truck directly in front of it. The truck in front was slowing down to turn to the right . Why the truck was about to crash into the truck in front of it is not fully known. Maybe the truck driver was distracted for a moment or maybe the driver was simply just not paying attention. What is known is the that the driver swerved abruptly to the left, not to the right which is taught in any defensive driving class, even though there was a grassy area to the right. If the driver had swerved to the right, the driver might have avoided the accident altogether.

So what does this accident have to do with you? Again, this accident and the circumstances surrounding it around provide an example of the concept of Critical-Event Safety, and how when the “right” action is not taken almost instantaneously at the moment of a possibly injury-causing event, the consequences can be dire.

Critical-Event Safety is preparing and anticipating any and all possible injury-causing events, and training to act appropriately in that instant such an event occurs. Further defined, Critical-Event Safety is the preparedness and action taken to allow an individual to make an instant decision and action to avert or minimize any injury-causing event. The beauty of the concept of Critical-Event Safety is that most of the real work, or the preparedness that makes this safety concept viable, is the work done so that the actual injury-causing event never actually occurs.

Unfortunately that’s not what happened in the accident described above. Again, had the dump truck driver swerved right, as they had been trained, this accident would not have happened.

But the driver swerved to the left, causing an accident that immediately killed the driver of the small vehicle hit by the truck, and left a small child in the back of the vehicle badly injured, but miraculously alive, as the child’s car seat was pushed into the only “safe” corner area of the nearly crushed vehicle. The dump truck driver was battered, bruised and emotionally wracked, but the dump truck driver also survived the accident since the driver was wearing a seat-belt.

So how can the concept of Critical-Event Safety affect you and others at your operation? Ask yourself these questions:

• What are the possible injury-causing events at your workplace?

• How have you prepared yourself and your co-workers for those possible injury-causing events? (If you prepare well-enough, those injury-causing situations will likely never occur.)

• What action will you and other employees take in the critical instant just before the injury-causing event? Will your actions prevent injury, or will they cause the injury, or even a tragedy?

Critical-Event Safety – Prepare yourself well enough, and the injury-causing event will never occur.

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