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Meet one-on-one with Pat J. Karol

Safety Leadership – Pareto, The Vital Few

Who is Pareto, and what does he have to do with safety leadership? You have probably developed a Pareto chart or diagram but didn’t know it by that name. We more commonly know it as the 80/20 rule. The Pareto Principle is named for Vilfredo Pareto, an Italian economist, and sociologist who determined that 80% of the wealth belonged to 20% of the people. The Pareto Principle states that roughly 80% of the outcomes or consequences come from 20% of the causes. As a front-line supervisor, I thought 80% of my problems came from 20% of my team members. The principle has been shown to roughly hold for customer complaints (20% of products produce 80% of complaints, and profit (80% of profits come from 20% of goods/services.

We use the Pareto Principle to focus our limited resources where they will have the most significant impact. A Pareto chart or graph depicts, for example, the causes of injuries from most frequent to least frequent—or injury rates by location from highest to lowest rates. In the diagram below, the numbers on the left represent total injuries, and on the right the percent of total injuries. Our limited resources directed at preventing foot injuries can have the most significant impact.

Because a Pareto diagram is a visual depiction of a problem area (or success), it is a valuable tool that should be in our toolbox. For budgeting purposes, it illustrates where monies can be directed or for influencing decisions at the leadership level. A Pareto diagram can influence a decision if you are meeting roadblocks in your efforts to push a specific safety initiative, especially at the executive level. Use a Pareto diagram to prioritize your to-do list. Identifying the tasks that have the highest impact increases your productivity.

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