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How does a three-legged stool relate to safety?

There are dozens of analogies related to the three-legged stool illustration. The Engineering diagram here gives us an idea of what makes it work. Equal pressure on each leg to support the weight of the load above. That seems simple but there are factors that could create a problem in effectiveness. If any one of the dimensions of the legs change, balance is compromised. The principle is good. Build the stool following a plan that will insure a successfully balanced product. So, how does that relate to safety?

Any successful business must balance three main things to ensure success. Safety, Quality and Productivity in equal amounts. Safety comes first, followed by quality and then productivity. Without any one of those the likelihood of success is a matter of chance. If we believed that safety is a matter of chance and that things are going to happen anyway, it wouldn’t be long until we would understand that not having safety first, is a matter of life and death. Think of a surgeon who performs bypass heart operations. Would you trust a surgeon that believes he’s 90% effective? Would you fly on an airplane where the company says that they are 95% sure you won’t crash? Granted, if we lived in a bubble and every chance of risk was completely removed, we would be entirely safe. However, we most likely would never be very productive since being productive involves an element of risk but, the level of prevention is equal to the level of importance. If productivity wasn’t a factor, we soon would be out of money because there would not be a product to sell. If we didn’t care about quality, no one would want our product and we would soon be out of business. So, if we are to expect to be able to successfully exist in the competitive world we live in, we must maintain a balance that ensures success. Safety Quality and Productivity, in equal amounts. Is the proper balance for business success.

Jeff Blomgren

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