ASSEZero-injury safety targets are easy to communicate and seem to be everywhere, but such goals can be counterproductive to a company’s efforts if the context in which they are used does not go beyond slogans and good intentions, according to the lead article in the April issue of the American Society of Safety EngineersProfessional Safety Journal.

“Achieving zero-injury targets requires the will to support perfection and the ability to recognize and change every factor that could lead to injury,” writes author Michael Burnham. “Organizational conflicts and inefficiencies, and the realities of human cognition limit the capacity to identify latent hazards, so each must be overcome if perfection is to be realized.”

Eight important questions

In fact, Burnham recommends companies answer eight important questions before embarking on zero-injury safety programs with the first one being: how will zero as a target motivate employees? If the odds of reaching a goal are less than 50 percent, the article states management is trying to fool employees into performing and it will not work.

Defeating the purpose

“When goals challenge employees, require skill learning, provide feedback and create in the performer a sense of personal control, optimum motivation can be reached,” Burnham writes. “If a goal does not motivate employees to continue current levels of performance or to improve performance, its very purpose is defeated.”

Click here to read more about what questions company executives should be asking