A new study released by VitalSmarts found that five threats to workers’ safety are not commonly discussed and lead to avoidable injury or fatalities, according to a company press release.

The study, named Silent Danger: The Five Crucial Conversations that Drive Workplace Safety, surveyed more than 1,600 frontline workers, managers, and safety directors across 30 safety-conscious organizations in 2009.

According to the data, 93 percent of employees say their company is currently at risk and nearly half are aware of an injury or death caused by one of five avoidable workplace dangers. However, despite being aware of these five threats, only one in four employees speaks up and tries to correct unsafe conditions.

Silent Danger shows the tragic secret behind most workplace injuries is that someone is aware of the threat well in advance, but is either unwilling or unable to speak up,” said Joseph Grenny, cofounder of VitalSmarts and leading researcher of the study. “The greatest dangers to workplace safety are the norms, habits, and assumptions embedded in our corporate cultures that stifle employees’ ability to speak up and confront unsafe practices.”

Each of the five threats to workplace safety outlined in Silent Danger was identified as being costly, common, and undiscussable. The five threats are:
  • Get It Done. Unsafe practices that are justified by tight deadlines.
  • Undiscussable Incompetence. Unsafe practices that stem from skill deficits that can’t be discussed.
  • Just this Once. Unsafe practices that are justified as exceptions to the rule.
  • This Is Overboard. Unsafe practices that bypass precautions considered excessive.
  • Are You a Team Player? Unsafe practices that are justified for the good of the team, company, or customer.
However, not all employees remained silent bystanders when confronted with these and similar threats. A small minority, ranging from 25 to 28 percent, say they are able to speak up effectively in these crucial moments and address unsafe conditions. More than 82 percent of this vocal minority says that when they speak up, their actions result in a safer work environment for everyone.

The full Silent Danger research results and recommendations for leaders are available for download at www.vitalsmarts.com/safety.