Safety Leader

The Domino Effect: How Taking a Risk Can Lead to Increased Costs and Injuries

Published On
May 19, 2020

When we talk about recordable incidents under the guise of OSHA, we are always thinking about the numbers. Where do we fall in a specific quartile against other similar size companies and competitors? Does our experience- modification rate impact our ability to bid on jobs throughout the industry? How does the number we are now labeled with reflect and affect the success or failure of our safety program? We need to consider how taking risks contributes to the increased potential of having such an incident.

According to OSHA, something is recordable if the incident results in medical treatment beyond first aid, restricted work or the need to transfer to another job, loss of consciousness, days away from work, a significant injury or illness that has been diagnosed by a physician or other licensed healthcare professional, and, of course, a fatality.

Thinking about how much the injury costs leads to further considerations: The cost of the accident to the company, the economic impact for future work for the organization, the physical/emotional toll on the employee who was injured, and the emotional effect on the injured employee’s co-workers. These are areas that we do not consider when we decide to take the risk.

What does this all have to do with risk taking and the recordable incident? They are all driven by the initial act of taking a risk. Yes, you can have an accident without taking a risk, but what we are looking at are the impacts when a risk results in a recordable incident. We’re not just looking at the OSHA log but how it affects the organization and its employees.

From an organizational standpoint, those recordable incidents are looked at internally and also by potential customers. If your recordables are too high, it may preclude you from bidding for a particular job. If you have numerous recordable incidents on a customer’s job site, you may risk being thrown off the job for lack of safety. Your recordable incidents numbers may draw OSHA’s attention. All of these have an adverse affect on the organization’s ability to succeed.

Looking at the emotional impact, or the indirect cost, of taking a risk that results in an accident. For instance: What’s the impact on you, if you are the injured employee, or how do you feel if your actions caused a fellow worker to be injured and how does it affect your crew? Your risk-taking doesn’t just affect you because it has a domino effect on everyone involved. Have you ever witnessed an accident on the job, either by observation or as a participant on a crew that had an accident? I bet you retain a vivid picture in your mind even to this day.

Let’s face it; we all take a risk at one time or another. It’s a fact of life. We take a risk when we leave one job to take another, when we drive too fast for the conditions of the road or even drive just over the speed limit, when we make a decision to do something that we’re not completely sure of but have a desire to see what happens, or simply when we buy a lottery ticket. These risks can have negative results but are not often as catastrophic as risk-taking on the job can be.

In the work we do, risk is part of the job. Any time we’re working with electricity or machinery, there is potential for something to go wrong. Our goal should be to minimize those risks so we can perform the job safely and complete it without any adverse impact on our customers, organizations and fellow employees.

If you’re reading this and saying to yourself, “I take risks all the time and nothing has happened to me,” I want you to think about if something did happen to you. The issue here is not if it will happen, but when.

About the Author

Chuck Kelly

Kelly, president of Kelly Consulting & Mediation Services, has worked with utility industry leaders on safety, labor relations and human resources for more than 30 years. Reach him at 540-686-0118 or

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