Tyrone Tonkinson, Ph.D., P.E.
Have you been involved in an accident investigation? It's very sad when we find out after the fact that some very simple actions or decisions led to a tragic outcome. Wouldn't we be better off if we could anticipate incidents and prevent them? In 1990, human performance emerged as a new area of study that uses our knowledge of human nature to prevent events. This article provides some of the principles to start your journey on the road to prevention. These principles are also the basis for the human performance section of the Certified Utility Safety Professional (CUSP) program. To find out more about the program, visit www.usoln.org.
Step 1: Turn on Brain. Step 2: Start Working.
I wish it were that easy. While reducing injuries is a very appropriate goal, making it happen with your workers is a challenge. This article will review a few proven ways that we can get our workers actively thinking about the potential hazards involved in the work they are performing.
I know that sounds like a consultant's answer, so let's discuss what I mean. We can start by considering human nature. We all choose our behaviors based on expected consequences. What are the consequences of taking shortcuts on the job? While there are possible negative consequences, like rework or an injury, these problems are few and far between. One definite result is that the job takes less time. Getting done faster is usually considered a good thing. But what if the shortcut involves violating a safety rule? If there are no consequences for violating safety rules, can they be ignored? Will this affect your safety record?
For the most part, people do not deliberately violate policies and safety rules. Our workers, however, are responding to many influences on their actions, including company goals, a sense of urgency to restore customer service, personal issues at home, and so on. When shortcuts get results and they are not corrected, the decision becomes a bad habit. And while bad habits will not lead to an injury every time, they will eventually catch up to the worker.