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Incident Prevention Magazine

Thomas Arnold, CSP, CUSP

Using Checklists to Mitigate Error and Injury

Today’s utility crews are working in an increasingly complex and fast-paced environment. Utilities and their contractors have come under intense pressure to get work done quickly and to ensure that it is done without error or serious injury. With this increased pressure comes increased risk.

So, how can we reduce the possibility of error on our worksites given such a demanding environment? One simple way is to use checklists. I realize this is hardly a new concept, but my colleagues and I have found that checklists, when properly written and consistently used, are a proven method to reduce risk and error.

The power of the checklist is well-documented in Dr. Atul Gawande’s book “The Checklist Manifesto,” published in 2009. Gawande, an endocrine surgeon, found that on average, there were over 50 million surgeries performed each year in the United States. Alarmingly, 150,000 of the patients died after surgery – and half of those fatalities were avoidable.

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