Swiss Cheese Model and the Role of Risk Management in Preventing Accidents

Assignment Instruction

Review the Swiss cheese model of accident causation by James Reason described in the textbook. In addition, you may access the article online (see reading material). Reflect on the “Swiss cheese model” and evaluate the role of risk management in preventing accidents. Explain the implications of accidents on organizational performance. Include at least three academic references, of which one must be peer-reviewed from an academic journal.

 

Sample Answer

Swiss Cheese Model and the Role of Risk Management in Preventing Accidents

The Swiss Cheese model of accident causation is a widely used model used in various industries such as health and aviation. The model was first described by James Reason in his book ‘Human Error’ and uses human factors to explain accidents (Reason, 1990). The model suggests that in any system there are various levels of defense. For example in a health care environment, drugs are checked before they are administered or there is checklist done before any operation is carried out on a patient. Each of these levels has little holes which are known as latent conditions. These conditions are caused by issues such as lack of training, poor management decisions, poor designs or limited resources.

When these latent conditions are arranged in a line over successive levels of defense, they will create an opportunity for an incident to occur. They will also increase the probability of making active errors. When a combination of the latent conditions and active errors breach all the levels of defense a patient safety incident or accident will occur. The initial mode was made up of five basic structural elements; decision makers, line managers, preconditions, productive activities, and defenses (Perezgonzalez, ZiZhang, & Abdul, 2011).

Decision makers are the senior managers who formulate strategies with goals and objectives to maximize the system’s performance. Line managers are departmental managers whose role is to implement the strategy within their departments such as training. Preconditions are the qualities of the workforce, the status of machines and the environment. For example, motivated staff or proper equipment that works. Productive activities are the actual performance within the operational departments. Defenses are the safety measures put in place to deal with foreseeable incidents such as wearing safety clothing. Accidents will occur when weaknesses exist at all the above levels of the system. This may occur because a chain of events has occurred from the first level to the last level of the system. Most accidents can be traced back to the weaknesses in a system (Carthey & Clarke, 2010).

The main objective of any business is to maximize profits. However, how much risk should a business take to achieve these objectives? In a health care organization medical errors can be averted through proactive risk management. Every health care organization has a risk management program; however, the question lies in whether the program is reactive or proactive. Reactive is preventing a recurrence of accidents that have occurred, whereas proactive is preventing accidents before they occur. Proactive risk management may avoid losses and expenses that would impact on the profits of the organization (Hopkin, 2013).

Accidents affect businesses and society as a whole in terms of lost lives and suffering for families and employees. The role of risk management is therefore to prevent accidents. Risk management can be implemented in the following ways. It involves carrying out a risk assessment. This involves identifying hazards and those people at risk. The organization could eliminate all risks by substituting dangerous risks with less dangerous risks. This is done through evaluating and prioritizing the risks. The next step in risk assessment is deciding the on the preventive action and taking action. It can combat risks at their source through implementing safeguards or safety measures. It can also minimize risks by designing suitable systems within the organization. This includes training, rules, procedures and supervision. Finally the organization must monitor and review its risk management.

Every organization is confronted by accidents which result in both negative and positive outcomes. Negative outcomes are normally easier to document as they are observable. They constitute the highest costs to the organization’s bottom line. They include loss of lives, faulty products, suffering for families and employees of those injured. Positive consequences of accidents can be viewed as providing an opportunity for organizations to learn and innovate. The positive outcomes are effective in the long term when the numbers of accidents reduce. Organizations that have an effective approach to accidents are more likely to become profitable in the long run as they will innovate and implement risk management policies that prevent or reduce the accidents.

Organizations incur high costs due to accidents which include salary costs, productivity losses, retraining, compensation costs, repairs, medical expenses and occupational death and injuries.  Accidents also increase costs on staff welfare, insurance, legal suits, are time consuming for management and give a negative image for the organization. The positive implication of accidents on organization performance is long term as they learn the importance of health and safety training, first aid training, and provision of safety equipment to employees for those in accident prone area.

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