|Occupational Health and Safety
Loss Control • 5 Star Program
The 5 Star system of loss control rests on the theory that control of loss is a management function. Its premise is that safety should
be the responsibility of line management and that loss control coordinators should ensure that management is complying with
standards and taking action before loss occurs. It relies heavily on management reportage.
There are a number of problems with the 5 Star system. Because its premise is loss control, it seeks to reduce losses of all kinds,
losses of productivity, losses in absenteeism, losses of machinery and equipment, losses in quality of goods produced, and losses of
efficiency. Losses to workers through injury or disease are incidental. The 5 Star system does not treat workers as people, but
rather as objects, as costs of production. Some 5 Star job analyses have resulted in job loss a production is "rationalized" rather
than made safer.
Since the program reflects property loss and other immediate losses, it emphasizes safety but largely ignores occupational hygiene
and occupational health concerns. Since industrial diseases usually do not show up for years after exposure, there is no immediate
payoff in their prevention. Thus the 5 Star program disregards these problems.
The program emphasizes employees’ "attitudes" which assumes that worker carelessness is the root cause of accidents. This is a
negative, "blame the victim" approach. It ignores the fundamental design problems in the workplace, work station, or work tools
that are responsible for most accidents. As well it ignores issues of the pressure for production that persuade workers to take
chances. Rather than reduce the pace of production, workers are blamed if they get hurt.
The 5 Star program is usually accompanied by a safety award program. Safety award programs assume that injured workers are
responsible for their own misfortune; if they were more careful, they would not hurt themselves. These programs provide an
incentive for workers not to report accidents, especially lost time accidents. When injury statistics are hidden, companies’ WCB costs
are reduced and the chance of higher 5 Star rating is increased.
The five star rating system has been widely used in South Africa. In the mining industry in particular there is a marked contrast
between the theory and the reality. Since the introduction of the five star system in South Africa, the reportable accident rate was
halved but the fatality rate remained constant. Workers can be bribed or threatened not to report accidents but a death cannot be
The Hlobane cole mine in South Africa had a four star rating in 1983. On September 12, 1983, 68 miners were killed by a methane
gas explosion. The joint inquest and inquiry into the tragedy and the court convictions found numerous health and safety violations
including the company’s failure to provide: flameproof electrical machines, adequate ventilation to prevent the build up of methane
gas; and sufficient methane gas testing devices as well as altering records of the presence of methane gas.
Closer to home, the five star system has proved just as suspect. In New Brunswick in 1989 the Denison Potacan Potash Co.
received a gold star from International Loss Control Institute (the gold star is even higher than a five star award). 5 Star obviously
ignored the fact the New Brunswick mine had seven work-related fatalities in the previous four years.
Since joint worker-management health and safety committees are not legally required in the United States, they play no part in the
U.S. 5 Star system. Some Canadian employers, however, who are sophisticated in their attempts to co-opt workers, are eager to
have the joint committees assist them in implementing the 5 Star Program. Most CAW locals have rejected this, telling employers
that management can run their own program while the union through the joint committee pursues its own health and safety
priorities. Other locals have chosen to use part of the 5 Star audits as part of their regular workplace inspection, while rejecting the
production oriented, anti-worker bias of the rest of the five star system.
Source: CAW Health, Safety & Environment Department