Canada's Certified Safety Professionals and Covid 19 Compliance Specialists ©

The Safety Iceberg

Xi Safety believes in safety at home and in the workplace. In our travels, we stumbled onto this free e-book by Fred Rine of FDR Safety called Getting to Zero. This is the Paradox of Safety: The more we push Safety, Safety, Safety at work, some people may turn the other way and rebel against the workplace mantra. As Fred states below, we may not make a difference by confining our safety efforts to the workplace domain of behaviors and habits.


“It is a fact that only 4% of fatal accidents occur on the job. 96% of accidental deaths are from vehicular accidents, or accidents at home or in the public domain. Working on 4% of a problem and expecting significant improvement might be considered a form of insanity.”

– Fred Rine, FDR Safety: Getting to Zero (pdf)

Take ladder use, for example. At home, how many of us take risks with stepladders that would not be acceptable in our workplaces? But in the workplace we will find a fall arrest harness and anchor point when working above the employer’s designated height, whether it’s 9 feet, 6 feet or even 4 feet. We do this because we “have to”. But when it comes to hanging Christmas lights at home, the percentage of people using fall arrest equipment is likely in the minority.

The “Safety Iceberg” represents the percentage of unsafe behaviors, habits and values visible in the workplace. This is because the employer typically has a lower risk preference than that of the employee. Friction arises where behaviors that were perfectly acceptable at home are suddenly forbidden in the workplace. Examples include heights for tie-off, box cutter use, cold work permits, lockouts and speed limits. Workers will generally comply with the employer’s programs for preventing accidents while the employee is in the workplace, but at home it can be another story.

Why should employers care about how their employees take risks at home? An accidental death of a worker during their off-hours creates its own iceberg of hidden costs for the employer:

1. The loss of the individual, their experience and presence.
2. The relationships they had to others and its impact on morale.
3. The cost of recruiting, retraining and mentoring another worker(s) to full competency.
4. The opportunity cost of lower production while retraining.

Employers have no control over what people do in their leisure time, but employers can have some influence by creating a safety culture that workers want to take home with them. This starts with motivating your people to work safely: most people want to return home to their loved ones in the same or better condition than when they left their front door. By tapping into worker motivations and values, your workforce can move from the “have-to” of Safety to the “want-to”.

We highly recommend this free e-book by Fred Rine, which you can download HERE.

Have any comments or questions? Drop us an email at

Pollyne (13 Posts)