A child in a raincoat picking dandelions
Property Casualty

A Dandelion’s Lessons in Rooting Out Risk

Do you know the root causes of your company’s work accidents? Risk management is deeper than surface level symptoms. Holmes Murphy Vice President, Commercial Risk & Safety, Property Casualty Chris Murphy shares some tips about how to get to a root of the problem.
Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy
Vice President of Commercial Risk & Safety, Property Casualty

As the days grow longer and spring emerges, lawns and gardens awaken and paint the landscape with shades of green and bursts of color. Amidst this natural beauty, there’s often an uninvited guest – the dandelion. Its bright yellow blooms may seem harmless (and even vase-worthy) to many children. However, ask any homeowner and they’ll tell you how quickly these stubborn weeds can overtake an otherwise healthy lawn.

In the world of safety and risk management, dandelions serve as a fitting metaphor for accidents in the workplace.

A child, with a goal of delivering a bouquet of “flowers,” diligently plucks the heads of every dandelion in the lawn. They proudly proclaim, “I got them all!” as their hands overflow with color. Days later, the dandelions have returned. Frustration sets in as the child realizes their work was for naught. In a teaching moment, you share that merely yanking off the visible part of the dandelion doesn’t eliminate the real issue – its root.

Just like these persistent weeds with their deep roots, accidents often have underlying causes that aren’t immediately obvious. Simply dealing with the surface symptoms and corrective actions – like reminding employees to be more careful – won’t stop accidents from happening again. It’s like plucking a dandelion’s head and watching it grow back, just as strong as before.

Reduce Your Risk by Identifying Root Causes

So, what’s the right way to mitigate risk? Organizations need to get to the root of the problem. It’s about digging deeper to figure out why an incident occurred, rather than just addressing the visible parts above the surface.

As an example, consider an employee who is injured when they strike their hand with a hammer. It might seem obvious to attribute the injury to rushing, not following procedures, and lack of focus. While these factors may have played a part, addressing the root means investigating additional possibilities until deeper causes emerge. Perhaps the procedure is outdated and doesn’t reflect current practices, or the employee was hired during a busy time and didn’t receive proper training. Failing to truly address their root causes will undoubtedly lead to injuries and accidents occurring again.

This is where root cause analysis (RCA) comes in. RCA prompts us, as risk management professionals, to ask:

  • What led to the incident
  • Are there flaws in the processes and procedures
  • Are there reasons for human error

By looking beyond the surface to identify possible systemic origins, we can find the root cause and make necessary adjustments to avoid future incidents.

RCA is just one of the techniques available. Another simple option is the “5 Whys” method, which involves repeatedly asking “why?” to uncover underlying causes. Fishbone diagrams, fault tree analysis, barrier analysis, and a variety of other tools can also help uncover the deeper reasons for the accident and to help develop effective solutions to prevent recurrence.

Is Your Risk Management Plan Flourishing or Wilting?

The key to managing risk effectively is to remember the root when responding to incidents and identifying potential issues. Preventing repeat accidents and near-miss events starts by tackling not only the visible symptoms but also digging deep into the underlying causes. Embracing methods, like RCA, and persistently asking “why?” can help your organization uncover issues contributing to risk and create a safer work environment for all employees.

Want to root out risk in your business? Reach out today to start a conversation with one of our risk management experts!

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