Silas is a safety inspector overseeing several organizations. Received his Master of Science in Safety and MBA degree.
Proactive and Reactive Approach to Safety: Best Process Solution
Organizational safety programs project accomplishment by referencing a lack of an accident or failure within the system. According to Herrera (2012), failure indicators require organizations to adjust and continuously change to find indicators that allow the company to act before something happens. Acting before an occurrence presents a proactive method, rather than reacting afterward, concerning safety oversight.
Denver (2021) mentioned that organizations no longer can afford to take a reactive approach to safety in today's highly competitive environment. After an accident takes place, the aftermath becomes life-threatening to humans and the environment. Oil spills decreased from 35% to 7% over the past few decades. However, carcinogenic impact human health and develop into a harmful long-term problem for the population and organization. Allowing a small oversight has the potential to spiral out of control and lead to an accident. Thereby, reducing accidents is arguably the product of an effective safety program. Identifying hazards beforehand implements a proactive practice to managing risk effectively. However, a combination of reactive and proactive measures presents the best option.
This article outlines the differences between a reactive and a proactive approach to safety. The information identifies tasks that suggest proactive and reactive support—integrating a systematic safety process allows the identification of hazards and develop controls to eliminate the danger.
Differences exist concerning a reactive and proactive approach to safety that emphasizes the before or after the process. A reactive approach suggests that the accident happened, and the investigation takes place afterward to determine the probable cause. Reactive methods represent change and safety oversight after an event. For example, according to Brauer (2016), accidents generate an investigation followed by an analysis to determine preventive action. The preventive action formulates preventive measures to avert an occurrence of the same event from happening again. A reactive approach remains useful by developing a strategy to prevent future accidents from the lessons learned from yesterday's accident. Accident reports provide a reactive means to identify hazards and develop controls to avert future events. Also, accident reports' reactive methods enable the safety engineer to determine whether the controls remain effective and produce the intended outcome.
Next, a proactive approach to safety suggests that the engineers actively seek to identify hazards, determine the risk-levels, and apply controls before an event occurs. An example exists while using the safety engineering process to identify hazards during equipment or process construction. According to Brauer (2016), a proactive approach starts with analyzing potential accidents and identifying the factors that may lead to an event. The objective of a proactive safety approach involves analysis and preventive programs to avert an accident. Therefore, proactive equates to prevention beforehand to avert the next major event.
Proactive and Reactive Tasks
|Proactive Methods||Reactive Methods|
Keep Ahead of The Game
Dealing with the Event Aftermath
Preventive strategies follow the analysis to prevent and avoid having an accident. Over the years, accident investigation involves the analysis after the accident occurred. Safety management systems (SMS) exist today to reduce risk by proactively identifying hazards within the safety risk management phase (Federal Aviation Administration, 2020). Reactive methods follow the 20th-century methodology and proactive methods represent the 21st century involving a necessary change. However, adjustments to oversee operations within a complex environment require both proactive and reactive methods. Reactive methods in reports and incidents help the safety engineer analyze the hazard and develop a mitigation strategy to reduce the risk. However, proactive methods require safety professionals to identify new hazards not previously discovered through reactive methods such as accident and incident reports. Therefore, proactive methods produce options to identify hazards before an accident occurs.
Companies That Used a Proactive Method to Prevent Disaster
Companies such as Toro and Nike have taken proactive measures to fix and replace defective products and parts. Bass (2018) mentions that Toro recalled 62,000 defective riding lawn mowers to protect the consumer from harm. Next, Nike responded to criticism of labor conditions, and the supply chain revamped the process to protect the workforce. Assessments that relay decisions and actions present a response to changing circumstances that focus on safety. Additionally, when a company takes a proactive stance, they present the organization's reputation by retaining goodwill among customers.
Process Control Determines Theory
Safety involves the process to ensure the system functions as requested. The process reduces outcomes by improving proactive measures. Hollnagel (2012) mentions that reactive safety management involves adjustments after an unacceptable outcome occurs. For example, patients admitted into the emergency room during a pandemic suggest reactive measures. Proactive methods project the pandemic and response before disaster arrives. The main problem with proactive safety management is that guessing the future remains uncertain and that a typical situation may never happen. However, when the event takes place, preparation outnumbers the risk. Not being ready may elevate costs in the short and long term.
Which Method Provides the Best Outcome
Reactive measures often introduce a negative context while proactive elevate the program into the 21st century. Reactive suggests a response in preparation for an event, while proactive approach provides details in the policy or procedure. According to Jones (2020), proactive versus reactive measures often go against each other, and the safety department chooses one over the other. However, risk management requires both strategies to overcome safety events. Proactive measures set the stage before the disaster, and the organization still must react to the threat. Therefore, both proactive and reactive measures provide a well-rehearsed safety program.
Safety oversight should include reactive and proactive methods to oversee and manage a safety program properly. Reactive methods highlight hazards that affect the workforce through accident and incident reports. After an event, receiving information provides evidence that the controls are not adequate and require change. Proactive methods seek to identify hazards and reduce or eliminate the hazard before the accident occurs. Therefore, both safety approaches provide a well-rounded program that identifies hazards before and after an event.
- Bass, B. (2018). Examples of organizations that use proactive stances. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/examples-organizations-use-proactive-stances-19368.html
- Brauer, R. (2016). Safety and health for engineers (3rd ed.). Wiley.
- Denver, G. (2021). Safety: Proactive not reactive. https://www.gardnerdenver.com/en-gb/emcowheaton/about-us/news/safety-proactive-not-reactive
- Federal Aviation Administration. (2020). Safety management system (Order 8000.369.C). https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Order/Order_8000.369C.pdf
- Herrera, I. (2012). Proactive safety performance indicators [Doctoral dissertation). Dissertations & Theses Full Text: The Norwegian University of Science and Technology. https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/52100617.pdf
- Hollnagel, E. (2012). Proactive approaches to safety management. https://www.health.org.uk/publications/proactive-approaches-to-safety-management
- Jones, S. (2020). Proactive vs reactive risk management strategies. https://reciprocitylabs.com/proactive-vs-reactive-risk-management-strategies/