You must log in to edit PetroWiki. Help with editing

Content of PetroWiki is intended for personal use only and to supplement, not replace, engineering judgment. SPE disclaims any and all liability for your use of such content. More information

Health, safety, and environment (HSE) treatment based safety approach

Jump to navigation Jump to search

Developing a corporate safety attitude to reduce and hopefully eliminate injuries, accidents and releases of toxic chemicals has been practiced for many years. In the 1970's the Dow Chemical Co. practiced the “Life is Fragile-Handle with Care” program at its laboratories and production plants.[1] The activities and technologies described below are interconnected with other safety approaches; however it is useful to consider them separately since they are primarily associated with different parts of most jobs. 

Courtesy of the Chemical Heritage Foundation Collections.

Benefits of Treatment Based Approach

  • Serves as historical metrics common across multiple industries
  • Often required for reports to regulatory / governmental agencies

Shortcomings of treatment-based approach:

  • Is not well aligned on “no hurt”.
  • Not aligned on “no treatment” or “no recordables”
  • Is not descriptive of actual injury severity; for example an incident with a twisted ankle, or a broken hip, or massive internal injuries can each be a Lost Time Incident (LTI).
  • Does not include potential injury severity; low consequence-high potential safety events (minor hurt, near misses) are often overlooked or simply not reported, investigated, or shared.
  • Does not enable a culture of caring; workforce can view safety focus to be on reducing the number of recordables, often by minimizing treatment, not on the elimination of injuries.

Treatment based safety approach

This program was based partially on the ides of a safety pyramid (Fig. 1), with the goal of eliminating the root causes of injuries and accidents by eliminating the un-safe acts themselves.

Fig.1 Treatment based safety pyramid

These types of programs traditionally use industry standards driven by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)[2] which have been used to classify safety events that are based on the treatment and/or restrictions of the injured person. The treatment-based approach can have some limitations due to the intense focus on administrative reporting (i.e., is the incident recordable or not?) and incident escalation management, the approach does not naturally resonate with workforce members to enable desired cultural changes. These types of historical approaches do not included the potential consequence assessment; a critical element in preventing future injuries.[3] Thus, incident classifications are often inconsistent because work restrictions and medical treatments are subject to individual medical provider judgment. This program is designed to educate the employee (and family in most programs) to eliminate the causes of accidents/incidents.[4]

Loss Time Incident
Restricted Work Incident
Medical Treatment Incident
FAI or First Aid
First Aid Incident


  1. Staiti, Alana. N.d. Delicate Matters: “Life is Fragile-Handle with Care”. Chemical Heritage Foundation. Distillations.
  2. OSHA, 2000. Occupational Safety and Health Administration Information Booklet Washington, D.C.:Occupational Safety and Health Administration, U.S.Dept. of Labor.
  3. Smith, R. M., & Jones, M. L. (Butch). 2013. A Hurt-Based Approach to Safety. Society of Petroleum Engineers.
  4. Frenier, Wayne. 2016. Chemical and Mechanical Methods for Pipeline Maintenance and Rehabilitation. Society of Petroleum Engineers.

Noteworthy paper in OnePetro

Rebbitt, D. 2014. Pyramid Power: A New View of the Great Safety Pyramid. American Society of Safety Engineers.

See also


Health, safety, and environment (HSE) risk based standards

Health, safety, and environment (HSE) hurt based standards

External links

Freibott, Bernd. 2012. Sustainable Safety Management: Incident Management as a Cornerstone for a Successful Safety Culture. American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

Wilson, Adam. 2013. Company’s Revised Approach To Safety Strives To Make Standards More Natural. Journal of Petroleum Technology.