When developing a safety program in an industry as full of hazards as oil and gas, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, both by the scope of the work to be done and by the large amount of data that goes into making decisions about it. Prioritization, then, is key. Given limitations in time, money, and human resources, where do you start? Applying the Pareto Principle can help you get started.

What is the Pareto Principle?

Coined by management consultant Joseph Juran, the Pareto Principle (also known as as the 80/20 rule) states that, in many situations, 80% of the effects are the result of 20% of the causes. It was named after an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto who noted in the 1800s that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population.

Since it was introduced, the Pareto Principle has found to apply to a wide variety of settings. From debugging software to ranking athletes to analyzing global wealth distribution, the Pareto Principle has been a useful tool in identifying disproportionately impactful causes and adjusting plans accordingly.

How does the Pareto Principle apply to health and safety?

If you have been collecting good data about health and safety incidents, you have a wealth of information available. If you’ve got an app or program in place to help you analyze impact, that’s ideal. If not, some basic algebra will get you there. While the 80/20 ratio is a rough estimate rather than an immutable rule, a pattern will most likely emerge. Is there a small number of hazards that account for an unexpectedly large percentage of your safety incidents?

You can parse this data in a number of different ways, depending on the metrics you use. Are you looking at individual incidents? Incidents serious enough to warrant first aid or a hospital visit? Money paid out in worker’s compensation claims? Productive hours lost due to injury?

You may find that slip, trip, and fall hazards cause around 80% of safety incidents, but that ergonomic factors result in 80% of your lost productivity. Both of these are valid ways of looking for areas in which a health and safety program can have a high level of impact right off the bat.

The Pareto Principle in application.

Just as in analyzing incidents, the Pareto Principle will most likely apply to your safety program: 80% of the results coming from 20% of your efforts. By starting with high impact adjustments, you can see quick, measurable results, building more widespread support for safety programs that might otherwise prove unpopular.

Of course, none of this absolves employers in the oil and gas industry from addressing serious safety issues just because they have yet to cause widespread impact. The fact that a known hazard has yet to cause any issues is less important than the fact that it has the potential to maim or kill dozens of people. And of course, all hazards eventually need to be dealt with. The Pareto Principle isn’t an excuse to ignore safety issues that have less numerical impact. Rather, it’s one tool among many to prioritize which adjustments are made first, and which are developed afterwards.

How to get started.

All of this, of course, requires that you have a solid system in place for collecting workplace safety data. Lacking good information, you’ll be left without enough information to analyze, leaving you with gaps in your understanding of the real hazards. When incident reporting is a hassle or there are no consistent guidelines for how things are reported, the data becomes murky and the picture less and less clear, leaving you unable to make solidly informed decisions about which safety measures would provide the most impact, and unable to prove the effectiveness of your safety program once implemented.

This is where Zeteky can help. The FirstHand app allows anyone to report an incident or hazard from their mobile device in real time, and provides tools for analyzing the data as well. Request a demo to find out more about how FirstHand can help you develop a more data-driven safety program.