An ANI is one of several possible OSHA classifications for a workplace injury. In order from least to most severe, they are:
- Accident no injury: An accident that could have resulted in an injury but didn't.
- First aid: An accident such as a cut or scrape for which treatment can be rendered by non-medical personnel on-site.
- Confirmation of first aid: An accident serious enough that the employee was taken to a medical professional, but treatment was not anything non-medical personnel couldn't have done. Examples include giving over-the-counter pain killers and rinsing out a foreign particle in the eye.
- Recordable injury: An injury serious enough that a medical professional rendered aid which could not have been administered by non-medical personnel. Examples include prescribing painkillers or antibiotics and giving stitches for a serious cut.
- Restricted duty: An injury serious enough that the doctor puts restrictions on the employee's at-work activities, such as a weight limit for lifting with an injured arm.
- Lost Time Injury: An accident resulting in an injury serious enough that the doctor keeps the employee away from work for a period of time.
- Fatality: An accident resulting in death.
OSHA uses these classifications to rate the severity of workplace accidents, and misrepresenting workplace accidents is a serious offense, punishable by fines and, more importantly, increased OSHA scrutiny of the workplace. Accidents classified as Recordable and above are reported to OSHA; Comfirmation of First Aid and below are for a company's own internal use.
The "safety pyramid" uses these classifications to illustrate that for every workplace fatality, there are a number of lost time and restricted duty injuries, more recordable injuries, even more first aids and confirmations of first aid, and a very large number of ANIs. Serious accidents typically happen when unsafe conditions or actions which have caused several ANIs finally cause a real accident. This means that by recording and taking action on ANIs, letting them serve as warning signs that unsafe conditions exist, the more serious accidents can be avoided.
Examples of ANIs include heavy objects falling over, machines malfunctioning in a dangerous manner, slips and stumbles which did not result in injury, and minor bumps, abrasions, and snags which could have been more serious if conditions were worse. All of these are warning signs that something is wrong and should be corrected before somebody gets hurt.
For example if one employee slips on a patch of oil from a leaky gearbox, but catches himself, it's probably only a matter of time before another employee slips and falls, resulting in a serious injury. If the ANI is not reported, and no action is taken, the gearbox will continue to leak and someone will probably eventually get hurt. But if the company has a good safety policy in place, and more importantly a safety culture, the ANI will be reported, the leak will be fixed, and a potential accident has been avoided.
Of course, it's important from a moral perspective to have a safe workplace. Employers are morally obligated to look out for the welfare of their employees. Legally and economically, there are serious drawbacks to having an unsafe working environment. First of all the company can be held liable for the accident if it can be shown that the accident occurred through the company's negligence. Secondly an injury results in lost work time, the temporary or permanent loss of experienced labor, and probably also lost production time. Finally, employees are more likely to remain with a company where they feel safe working.
All of this can be avoided by instituting a safety culture at the workplace. A safety culture means that the employees, from management all the way down, understand the importance of workplace safety, follow established guidelines on reporting accidents and correcting their root cause, and actively encourage others to do the same. A workplace without a good safety culture allows unsafe acts and conditions to continue until they result in a real accident.
All of this means that the reporting of ANIs should be encouraged. ANIs are not counted against a company's safety record like injuries are. Instead they are a measure of how well a company is following safety guidelines and establishing a safety culture. A factory with several ANIs reported — and acted on — per month is a factory taking proactive steps to protect its employees.