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Unsafe Acts vs. Unsafe Conditions

It has been found that unsafe actions, more so than unsafe conditions are the root cause of the vast majority of occupational injuries and accidents.

Unsafe Act

Performance of a task or other activity that is conducted in a manner that may threaten the health and/or safety of workers.

Unsafe Condition

A condition in the work place that is likely to cause property damage or injury.

Unsafe conditions exist all around us:

Simply driving a car puts each one of us in a condition where we are vulnerable to accidents. We are surrounded by hazards that could cause harm, but most of the time we safely negotiate these hazards and arrive at our destination safely.

Unsafe acts:

More difficult to recognize and correct because they involve human factors. For example, snow creates an unsafe condition to drive in, but that hazard is magnified by driving in the snow without slowing down or by not maintaining safe distances. The act of driving too fast and not leaving safe stopping distances makes an unsafe condition even worse.

Unsafe acts are linked to our behavior:

How we behave (our actions) may not be related to our skill level. In other words, some of our most skilled employees might actually display some of the most dangerous behaviors. In fact, some studies have shown that the more skilled a worker becomes, the more likely they are to develop unsafe behavior patterns.

Questions to Generate Discussion:

What is the difference between an unsafe act and an unsafe condition?
Are there any unsafe conditions in your establishment that could be made worse by unsafe acts?

Unsafe Acts

  • Operating equipment without qualification or authorization
  • Lack of/or improper use of PPE
  • Operation equipment at unsafe speeds
  • Failure to warn
  • Bypass or removal of safety devices
  • Using defective equipment

 Unsafe Conditions

  • Defective tools, equipment or supplies
  • Inadequate supports or guards
  • Congestion in the workplace
  • Inadequate warning systems
  • Fire and explosion hazards
  • Poor housekeeping
  • Hazardous atmospheric conditions

Make sure to perform safe acts in all workplaces, especially when unsafe conditions are present.


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