Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference

Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference
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Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference are those behaviours and circumstances, respectively that give rise to the occurrence of the main accidents, incidents or work-related illnesses. According to the level of significance in investigations of work accidents, insecure work conditions and unsafe acts are highly responsible for accidents causing injuries and fatalities.

Unsafe acts and unsafe conditions are also called immediate causes, these being the main triggers of accidents. According to OSHA unsafe acts and conditions are the root cause of the accident.

Those situations (circumstances) that occur in the workplace and whose main characteristic is the presence of risk factors without or with little control and that can cause accidents, an unsafe condition is also one that is generated by an unsafe act.

It is vitally important that both the worker and the company, identify the unsafe conditions and acts that can be seen within the workplace. Safety protocols must be clear through training and documented within the reach of workers.

For example:

Let us imagine the accident involved a fall from a height (scaffolding platform). We conclude some unsafe acts and conditions that cause an accident.

Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference

Unsafe conditions:

  • The scaffolding platform holding the red tag
  • Performing work at height activities without feeling well
  • Weather conditions (high wing, raining)
  • Inadequate lighting.
  • Improper access.
  • Missing braces. toe-board. guard rails etc.
  • Lack of supervision.

Unsafe acts:

  • Working without 100% tie-off
  • Not maintaining three-point contact while ascending and descending
  • Not wearing basic PPEs such as a full-body harness, safety shoes etc.
  • Absent of valid permit, JSA or risk assessment
  • Using improper manual handling technique

Definition of the unsafe act and unsafe condition difference

Unsafe act: An unsafe act is a failure, forgetfulness or omission carried out by workers when they perform a job. A task or activity results in accidents, which on several occasions can be tragic and on others can cause non-permanent disability.

Sometimes workers perform reckless acts due to the need to do the job quickly, ignoring safety measures, the incorrect use of tools and the incorrect use of personal protective equipment. Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference

Unsafe act and unsafe condition differenceUnsafe condition: The unsafe condition is linked to the nature of the workplace, another hand, it is a lack of safety. This last term ‘SAFETY’ is defined as free from danger, risk or harm.

An unsafe condition, therefore, is the state of something that does not provide safety or that poses a danger to people such as physical and material conditions of an installation that can cause an accident to workers. Such poorly done electrical installations create an unsafe conditions.

Causes are unsafe acts and unsafe conditions

Causes of unsafe acts: Workers carrying out welding tasks without the proper use of a protective mask. It is an unsafe act. Unconscious acts at work are very common, due to the pressure to finish promptly. Workers incorrectly use equipment and tools, exposing their safety and comprehensive health.

A large part of accidents in the workplace is the product of unsafe acts carried out by the workers. The definition of unsafe acts tells us that it is practically when a worker violates a procedure that is considered unsafe at work, thus exposing himself to a high probability of an accident at work.

Why are unsafe acts generated at work?

The day-to-day worker’s actions and behaviours carry out that are unsafe and nothing happens to him, what he is doing is reinforcing his bad habit and bad behaviour in safety and health at work. What should we have to do then? We have to change the worker’s behaviours and reinforce them differently.

The first thing is to look for behaviour-based safety to be a program implemented within the company. The second is to reinforce them to do what is a safe practice. How many times does a safety officer approach the worker to tell him what he did is safe? For example: hey, How good that you use PPE correctly!

So, how many times do supervisors congratulate them? They do not do it because they think that this is a safety officer’s job and obligation. But that does not mean that a safety officer does not have faults as a person or human being. Supervisors and managers of an organisation as bosses must have a vision and a level of awareness greater than that of the worker to realize. They should take the necessary actions in the face of these unsafe acts.

Causes of unsafe conditions:

Unsafe conditions arise in a work environment when those responsible act with negligence and the facilities do not have the maintenance and care they require. A slippery floor can be an unsafe working condition (since a person can fall while walking), although it is easy to solve.

Other unsafe conditions, on the other hand, are more complex and pose a risk to life (such as lack of adequate clothing to prevent accidents, absence of safety devices, lack of signalling systems, obstruction of exit routes, etc.).

It is important to note that the unsafe condition implies a fairly high possibility of an accident occurring. One factor that increases the risk of an accident occurring is the permanence over time of a certain unsafe condition. A cable in poor condition can produce a short circuit at any time. The more days it is in use without a solution, the more likely it is that the short circuit will occur.

Why are unsafe conditions generated at work?

Unsafe conditions are generated by dangerous factors in the work environment such as polluting factors (physical, chemical, biological, etc.) or risky energy sources. Unsafe conditions refer to how poorly accommodated, poorly located or disorderly things are at work. In this sense, the condition refers to how the workplace is poor.

Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference
Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference

Frank Bird’s pyramid gives a very important message on the issue of occupational health and safety. It is based on the theory of causality which says that when we have a death in the company, it is because there have been at least 10 serious accidents, which have caused economic losses.

When 30 registered accidents with the first aid attention were generated in that same period, we never see around 600 unsafe acts and conditions that are the cause of one fatal accident within the company.

Unsafe acts and unsafe conditions examples

Unsafe acts are actions (behaviours) committed by employees that increase the probability of occurrence of an event, this being an accident, incident and/or occupational disease. Some examples of unsafe acts may be:

  • Carry out work without authorization
  • Perform work in unsafe conditions
  • Ignoring hazardous conditions
  • Use the equipment and work machines without safety devices or in poor condition
  • Make jokes in critical places of the work
  • Making manual adjustments without knowledge of the tools and equipment to be used
  • Adopting incorrect postures in the workplace and especially when lifting loads
  • Create clutter in the workplace

Unsafe conditions are usually easily visible to the accident investigator or inspector. Some examples of unsafe or unsafe conditions are:

  • Lack of protection and safeguards in machines and facilities
  • Failures in alarm systems
  • Disorder and lack of cleanliness in the workplace
  • Shortage of space for working and storing materials
  • Excessive noise levels; Inadequate lighting (lack of light, dazzling lamps, poor distribution of light and shadow areas)
  • Lack of signage in danger zones
  • Existence of combustible or flammable materials near heat sources
  • Floors or surfaces in poor condition; uneven, slippery among others.

What are some examples of unsafe acts?

An unsafe act is any wrong action or practice performed by the worker that can cause an accident or occupational disease.  For example:

  • Operate equipment without authorization
  • Failure to signal or warn of any danger
  • Failure to properly secure equipment
  • Operating equipment at inappropriate speeds
  • Remove safety devices
  • Using defective equipment and tools
  • Not using PPE (personal protective equipment)
  • Store without respecting safety measures
  • Make jokes, play games in workplaces
  • Working under the influence of alcohol and intoxicating drugs

An unsafe condition is any condition in the work environment that can cause an occupational accident or illness. In other words, unsafe conditions are related to the workplace and not to the worker. For example:

  • Equipment with inadequate protections
  • Protection elements are not suitable for the type of risk and danger
  • Equipment without corrective and preventive maintenance
  • Insufficient and deficient work areas in space and lighting.
  • Communication and warning systems are not indicated
  • Situations that can cause fire outbreaks
  • Lack of order and cleanliness in the areas and workplaces
  • Poor environmental conditions in the work area (temperature, ventilation, lighting, humidity, etc.

How can we prevent unsafe acts and unsafe conditions?

All areas or jobs are exposed to generating accidents in different ways. However, the probability of an event of this type occurring is increasing. 3 key aspects are not considered before executing the work and that is the responsibility of both Employer and employee.

  1. Lack of knowledge of how to perform the task
  2. Lack of education, training
  3. Lack of awareness and sensitization

To avoid the occurrence of such events, it is necessary that the organization, with commitment and responsibility, proactively attack the aforementioned points. Below, some phases are mentioned that allow attacking the immediate causes of accidents and incidents in organizations:

  • The first phase involves carrying out a preventive self-assessment (audit) in the organization that reflects the current situation and determining and implementing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures.
  • Then, allow your workers to perceive the risk to which they are exposed and formalize what is necessary so that they become aware of how to carry out their work safely. (Perception of risk and situational awareness).
  • In the third phase, establish policies and good preventive practices among the workers.
  • Once the above is done, create channels that promote active preventive communication between all the teams in the organization.
  • And finally, invest in technology and standards to effectively integrate prevention into the company’s management system.

Why do we need to report any unsafe act or unsafe condition to the supervisor?

Although the workers may be well trained, a supervisor never hurts. Its function is vital, especially in jobs that involve exposure to high risks, handling of potentially dangerous machines and activities that easily lead to an accident.

Supervisor keeps in mind not only their safety but that of their workers. As employers and supervisors do not prioritize the speed of delivering a job over the safety of those who are part of the company and provide their trust. Safety depends on everyone and avoiding these risks is one more point that must be fulfilled in search of true supervision.

Detect and report Unsafe acts and unsafe conditions to supervisors that may cause work accidents or occupational diseases. Supervisors implement a mechanism for identifying, intervening and improving the conditions, behaviours and health aspects of employees in the different areas of the organization.

What unsafe acts and conditions do you identify?

Both unsafe conditions and acts must be detected by people who work in the area. Learn how to detect and report them. This is very important. If they do so, then all unsafe acts, unsafe conditions and incidents, recordable with a disability or recordable without disability, are significantly reduced and avoid one death.

Reporting of an Unsafe Act or Condition

1.   Report what is observed: Any worker or contractor, visitor or interested party who identifies an unsafe and dangerous condition or an unsafe act in an organization should report the situation to Occupational Health and Safety. The type of observation can be:

  • Unsafe Act
  • Unsafe condition
  • Health condition
  • Safe behaviour
  • Improvement suggestion

2.   Perform safety inspection: Inspect the area where the act or unsafe and dangerous condition occurs, and take photographic evidence. Implement Controls for unsafe conditions and unsafe acts.

  • For unsafe conditions: Those in charge of the areas will be contacted to manage human or financial resources and implement controls to mitigate or prevent said risk.
  • For unsafe acts: A meeting will be held with those responsible for said activity to establish the corresponding corrective actions and a commitment document should be generated with those responsible to correct the unsafe in the activity and adequately comply with the guidelines of safety.

3.  Monitor and verify the Controls: Compliance with the actions from the reports is monitored and the report is closed by informing the corresponding interested party (to whom it is reported) via email or another effective communication mechanism. The condition and/or who is interested in the effectiveness of the intervention).

What should be done when an unsafe act or condition is detected?

If observe that a worker is carrying out an unsafe action or working in an unsafe condition, we can point it out to him in a courteous manner, and in this way, we will be preventing work accidents.

Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference
Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference

In the case of being a supervisor of Occupational Health and Safety, we can make a call for attention as stipulated by the organization. It is very important to reduce unsafe acts and conditions at work and reduce the accident rate in the organization.

The company’s Safety team must constantly carry out on-site inspections to verify that workers do not adopt incorrect positions. Some companies implement verbal and written warnings/award systems to encourage the worker to take responsibility for individual and collective safety within the organization.

Reducing the chances of occupational accidents occurring in the different areas of the organization will lead to a decrease in the accident rate, something that will greatly benefit the company.

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How do control unsafe acts and conditions within an organization?

It is important to highlight that is possible to control the unsafe acts carried out by the personnel within unsafe conditions. And it is by creating a culture of safety at the level of the entire company. Health and safety culture within the organization must have the support of all the heads of the area and supervisors.

By creating a general culture of safety in the company, it is ensured that workers use their protective equipment and tools as well as behaviours to avoid bypassing procedures that are considered safe.

Plan of talks on Safety

One of the simple ways to reduce the number of unsafe acts and conditions within a company is to implement a Safety Discussion Plan that involves the participation of all areas of the organization.

This speaking plan will address high-risk jobs such as:

  • Work at heights.
  • Welding and/or cutting work.
  • Electrical works.
  • Work with lifting loads.
  • Work in confined spaces.
  • Work with chemical substances.
  • Works with combustible liquid substances etc.

And other types of jobs involve exposure to different types of risks that can trigger an accident in the work area. The talks can be given in five minutes to the staff and can be carried out by supervisors or Occupational Safety and Health supervisors.

Constant monitoring of high-risk jobs

Supervision must be constant and pay special attention to jobs that involve exposure to high risks since these are activities that can easily lead to an accident. The Health and Safety officers must identify the areas where this type of work activity is being carried out, to provide adequate follow-up.


2 thoughts on “Unsafe act and unsafe condition difference”

  1. Hi Kulsum,
    I like the way you discussed acts and conditions and it’s always good to see Bird’s Triangle being used – it’s why we report stuff!
    Best Regards, Simon

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