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Dominic Cooper

Last modified: Monday, November 11, 2002

Industrial safety expert at IU says senior managers key to success

If you want to reduce workplace accidents, talk to Dominic Cooper.

The Indiana University associate professor of safety education in the School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER) has an international reputation in workplace safety and an impressive record of success with industry clients.

Cooper, who came to the HPER faculty from England in January, has received national awards for developing safety programs in Great Britain. Using his methods, one industrial company there with 319 accidents in a year reduced this total by more than 50 percent in nine months. Two years later, there were 26 such accidents. In some cases his consulting advice has resulted in a reduction of the accident rate to zero within 12 to 18 months.

"The key to safety in the workplace is to get everyone involved from the top level to the lowest employee," he said. "Getting senior management involved has a direct impact on safety performance of between 12 and 17 percent, and this is vital to success.

"There is no such thing as rank when it comes to safety. It is not us and them, it's a partnership. You need to set a specific target for each work group and give weekly feedback to everyone involved," said Cooper. He defines his duties in teaching safety management and safety culture courses through HPER's Department of Applied Health Science as training health and safety directors for the 21st Century.

In comparing workplace safety around the world, he said Europe is way ahead of the United States. "They take industrial safety much more seriously in Europe, where workplace accidents are less acceptable. They are even considering a law that a CEO can go to jail for 10 years if a worker is killed and a management system is one of the contributing factors. This means that CEO's cannot turn a blind eye to safety. In the U.S., we are behind the times. We concentrate on changing attitudes to change behavior whereas we need to just focus on changing behavior."

He cited the example of using posters and slogans to try and get Americans to quit smoking as an example of attempting to change attitude instead of changing behavior.

Cooper's upbringing provided little clue to his future success. He was a school dropout at age 13 with blue collar industrial roots as a scaffolder in England. He later pursued college degree work through night school in industrial and occupational psychology. This has allowed him to achieve a lifetime ambition of becoming a college professor.

His safety expertise has resulted in world travel in the last decade to consult in England, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Asia and sections of the U.S. "I have worked with tribesmen in Nigeria to highly sophisticated chemical engineers in Great Britain," he said.

Cooper has published three books on industrial safety, including an industry benchmark, "Improving Safety Culture: A Practical Guide" that covers safety climate, safety behavior and safety management. He is co-editor of "The International Journal of Behavior Safety" and has published work in numerous journals, book chapters, and magazine articles while leading several training workshops on workplace safety. He maintains three Internet sites, with the main one being the most popular industrial safety Web site in the world.

For more details, contact Cooper at 812-345-3968 or