Systemic Risks - National Safety Council

Systemic Risks

Systemic risks are the factors that can contribute to injury in a hazardous situation but are not direct causes of injury. Below is a list of 11 specific systemic risk factors with short descriptions and relevant survey detail. These include the most common systemic risk factors for our hazardous situations.

Lack of Training or Supervision: Health and safety training provides needed education and knowledge for job tasks, workplace hazards and personal safety in order to protect workers and firms. A lack of proper training or supervision can put workers in dangerous situations and its effects are often overlooked.
Survey Says: According to the NSC 2020 Safety Technology in the Workplace Survey, 42% of workers experienced a lack of proper training at work, with 39% saying that lack of proper training has caused or contributed to a serious injury in their workplace. Out of the 18 top hazardous situations identified in the Work to Zero Safety Technology 2020 white paper, lack of training was earmarked as a systemic risk in every scenario (NSC, 2020). 

Leadership Failure: This includes mistakes, errors, lack of expertise and/or flawed communication that can have unintended consequences.
Survey Says: According to the NSC 2020 Safety Technology in the Workplace Survey, 71% of employers are concerned with a failure of leadership to promote safety and the impact that has on their organization.

Lack of Workplace Awareness: Being unaware of your surroundings in the workplace can lead to dangerous habits, safety concerns and more.
Survey Says: According to the NSC 2020 Safety Technology in the Workplace Survey, 39% of workers reported feeling like they had a lack of workplace awareness, and 40% stated a lack of workplace awareness has caused or contributed to a serious workplace injury.

Fatigue and Other Forms of Impairment: Fatigue, or other types of impairment, refer to the difficulty or inability of a worker to perform tasks at a desired level.
Survey Says: According to the NSC 2020 Safety Technology in the Workplace Survey, 77% of workers reported being fatigued at work, and 40% shared that fatigue has caused or contributed to a serious workplace injury. Fatigue was identified as a contributing factor in over 50% of hazardous situations identified.

Faulty Equipment: Refers to mechanical or electronic equipment that is not working properly and is dangerous or unsafe to use. Examples include electrical failure, lockout/tagout failure, alarm or signaling failure, valve or container failures, etc.

Improper Personal Protective Equipment/Fall Protection: This includes a lack of knowledge on when PPE is necessary; how to correctly put on, take off or adjust PPE; or the correct PPE to wear in certain situations.
Survey Says: According to the NSC 2020 Safety Technology in the Workplace Survey, 48% of workers stated that compliance with safety equipment is an issue in their workplace, and 41% stated it’s their personal decision whether or not to use PPE.

Hazardous Terrain: Consists of ground or land that is uneven and dangerous or has materials and debris causing safety issues, or poor trench design. Examples include: terrain dangers, uneven terrain, unknown hazardous materials and debris, trench issues, etc.

Machine Guard Failure/Malfunction: The failure or malfunction of machine guards can cause severe injuries or death. Machine guards are put in place to help keep machine operators safe.

Adverse/Inclement Weather: This includes any weather that impedes workers to conduct their jobs safely and successfully. Examples include rain, snow, sleet, fog, high winds, lightning, etc.

Permit to Work Failure: The lack of a formal management system to regulate high-risk situations to control safety measures.
Survey Says: According to the NSC 2020 Safety Technology in the Workplace Survey, 39% of workers reported dealing with permit to work failures in their workplaces, and 15% say permit to work failures have caused or contributed to serious workplace injuries.

Worker Behavioral Failure: Includes worker behavior that puts one’s health and safety at risk. Examples consist of improper lifting techniques, improper machine operation, etc.
Survey Says: According to the NSC 2020 Safety Technology in the Workplace Survey, 48% of workers stated that compliance with safety equipment is an issue in their workplace, and 41% said it’s their personal decision whether or not to use PPE.