Have you ever:
• Driven through a stop sign without realizing it because you were deep in thought?
• Lost your place while reading a book?
• Gotten distracted while performing a task and ended up having to do it again?
• Found yourself writing the wrong year on a check in January?
• Taken direction over the phone only to realize you’re lost when you attempt to follow what you wrote down?
• Built or assembled something only to find out you have to rebuild it because there are leftover parts?
Human error is natural, but can be provoked by workplace practices and traps in organizational processes, procedures and culture. Understanding human error helps us realize that we, as human beings, possess a wide range of capabilities, yet we also have many limitations.
No matter how efficiently equipment functions; no matter how good the supervision, training and procedures are; and no matter how well the best worker, engineer or manager performs at his or her duties, people cannot perform better than the organization that supports them. A business that teaches and reinforces error-free performance at all levels is a business that is dedicated to the well-being of its employees.
What is Error-Free Performance?
Very simply stated, error-free performance is behavior combined with favorable results.
Behavior: An observable act that can be seen and heard; it’s what people say and do.
Results: Good or bad, results are the outcome of behavior, the mental processes and physical efforts used to perform tasks.
How Does It Work?
Error-free performance is composed of a series of techniques called “tools” that, when applied in the moment, will catch errors or help avoid error traps.
The tools can be used by themselves or, at times, multiple tools can be used depending on the complexity of the task.
Developing the habit to routinely use tools is the challenge. As with any habit-forming activity, it will take time, practice and focus, but the results will be worth it. These tools have been proven to reduce injury, minimize quality issues and help people succeed.
The tools are used every day by emergency room personnel, 911 center operators, pilots and air traffic controllers, nuclear plant personnel and employees of other businesses where errors create unwanted consequences. These tools are used around the world because they work.
Introduction to the First Set of Tools
Basic principle: Stop when you are unsure
• Stop any time confusion, uncertainty or doubt exists during the execution of work.
• Stop if the job scope grows.
• Stop if a crew encounters unexpected results or if expected results don’t happen.
• Stop if someone else expresses doubt or concerns about your actions.
Basic principle: Ensures accurate communication during critical steps by repeating the direction back to the sender
• The sender communicates the direction or order to the receiving person (receiver).
• The receiver acknowledges receipt of the direction by repeating it back to the sender.
• The sender confirms the accuracy of the message and acknowledges it by stating the message is correct.
Basic principle: Used to identify potential concerns and clarify task requirements
• At least one job briefing is conducted before the start of each day or shift.
• Additional job briefings are held if significant changes occur that might affect employee safety or if a new job is started during the shift.
Errors can be reduced or eliminated by establishing specific habits. When the tools described above are used as a set, many errors can and will be avoided.
The next Tailgate will review the remaining error-free tools. More to come!
About the Author: John Boyle is Corporate Director of Quality, Safety and Environment for Acciona Energy North America, a sustainable energy company that develops and operates wind and solar power facilities across North America. Boyle has more than 26 years of experience in nuclear generation and electric and gas distribution, which provides him with unique insight into the safety challenges faced by utility workers.video
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