Recently one of our potential customers asked this question:

Q: For a firm that has a DART rate of 0.5, and would like to get to a DART rate of 0.2, to help make the compelling case for change, what is the likelihood that you’re more likely to experience an SIF event having a DART rate of 0.5, thus the need for change?

A: For your total employment of about 25,000 a DART rate of 0.5 leads to 125 employees injured so severely that they are forced to take one or more days away from work, or cannot return to their regularly assigned jobs.  At a DART rate of 0.2 there are 110 fewer such cases. 

Journey to zero

In 2003 when Caterpillar began its own journey to zero incidents, the recordable injury frequency (RIF) was 6.2 for about 64,000 employees worldwide.  Now 13 years later the RIF has improved to 0.5 for 100,000 or so employees.  Using simple math to track each year’s lessened RIF there have been greater than 72,000 employees who did not get severely injured requiring medical attention.  This 13-year safety effort has resulted in not injuring nearly three-quarters of our total employee population. The Caterpillar corporate EHS staff looked at injury data costs for medicals, including fatalities, and was easily able to determine the average recordable injury cost more than $10,000 per event.  With a straightforward multiplication, focusing on eliminating all injuries has saved Caterpillar more than $650 million in direct costs. In turn the organization was not forced to replace/hire/train frontline employees.  OSHA recently noted that on average each direct dollar of injury cost was associated with another about $5.1 of indirect costs.  Multiplying $650 million by 5.1 is mind boggling. 

One lost-time injury for ten recordables

When I worked with Dr. Dan Petersen we had a discussion about what is world class safety performance.  His answer in 1990 was a RIF of about 1 with a Lost-Time Injury Frequency (LTIF) of 10 percent of RIF. As you can see from Caterpillar’s injury statistics, since then the best of the best in safety are far better than that, and yet the 10:1 RIF to LTI figure still seems about right to me. Caterpillar still tracks safety metrics such as RIF, lost-time injuries, severity rate and, of course, very serious injuries and fatalities. 

However, our frequent measures are no longer what we don’t want to occur (downstream or trailing indicators); instead we focus on leading indicators; those daily accountabilities spread across all levels of the organization which help prevent injuries.  We have advanced from the reactive OSHA approach to the proactive measures of a safety culture of excellence.

Ever since H. W. Heinrich in the 1930s there have been many serious attempts to quantify how many close calls occur for each medical case and how many medical cases for each lost-time injury.  Without getting into all the analytical hoopla, I’d say there are hundreds of close calls for each medical injury and more than 10 medicals for each lost-time injury. Back in my time with Dr. Petersen and the Fortune 20 company for which I had safety responsibility, we looked at the company’s cost data for medicals and lost-time cases. Our consensus was that an LTI was at least 80 times the direct cost of a non LTI medical case, while a fatal case direct cost was more than $1 million. 

But how many LTIs or DARTs to a fatality? For this question I do not have a quantitative answer.  However, it is my opinion that an organization’s RIF roughly corresponds to gambling odds, i.e., for your safety culture (what happens regularly without your even thinking about it) you can count on your RIF being the percentage of your total population that gets medically injured and that you get to pay for.  The DART rate is a similar, but a much more severe anti – jackpot number with its significantly higher cost.

There is definitely an escalation factor as we are living with today’s injury costs. That said, you can go through your cost runs to figure out a close approximation. The real answer in both Caterpillar’s and my background experiences is that to reduce your DART and RIF you will have to go way beyond the OSHA type fundamentals. Your organization will also have to seriously engage in the efforts it takes to change the risk-taking culture your frontline workers engage in without even thinking about it. At Caterpillar, the journey to zero is altruistic; it is what we are here for whether internal or external to the Caterpillar organization.