Olympic Death – Lessons for an OHSMS

| February 18, 2010

The death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili at the beginning the 2010 Olympic Games was tragic. 

Even though most workplaces are clearly not the same as an Olympic sports facility, there are “lessons to be learned” from this tragedy for occupational health and safety professionals.  

  • Arguing whether the individual hurt was at fault is not productive.  As the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili stated – “…no sports mistake is supposed to lead to a death.”  When individuals die as a result of workplace incidents, the sentiment is the same.  Blaming the worker is just as counterproductive as blaming an athlete.
  • Consideration of “human factors” is both critical to preventing injury and more difficult and complex than it initially seems. 

What are those complexities?

First, consideration of human factors must consider each person as an individual.  Unlike machines, humans are not identical.  Each person is unique in size and statue, physical capabilities and emotional responses.  Protecting all workers means protecting each individual.

Second, there is a relationship between the consideration of human factors associated with a task and the development of the competency needed to perform that task.  Much of the disagreement expressed about the luge crash has focused on the skill and experience of Nodar.  The same issue is often a factor in industrial accidents – inexperienced workers have a higher accident rate.

Finally, our view of what is an acceptable risk evolves over time.  In a recent blog post on www.motorsport.com, Max Mosley, the former president of Formula One’s governing body, is quoted as saying “The International Luge Federation is where Formula One was 40 years ago – the whole mindset is wrong.” 

© ENLAR® Compliance Services, Inc. (2010)


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Category: OHSMS Implementation

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