I find human performance a fascinating topic to teach during my supervisor training classes. Many readers of Incident Prevention are familiar with the topic. For those who aren’t, human performance is an analytical tool that examines how people accomplish tasks and why they perform those tasks in a particular way. Employees in the electric utility industry execute many of the same tasks each day. We do them according to the local culture’s work practices, primarily learned through on-the-job training. As older workers retire and new employees join the ranks, those work practices are passed down to the next generation. Sometimes the practices are not the safest approach and can lead to incidents and accidents.
At one point in our industry’s history, it was common to blame employees when incidents and accidents occurred, but we have learned over time that human error rarely is the root cause. That’s where human performance tools help employers identify and correct latent organizational weaknesses and errors. A company that invests in human performance analysis can minimize active errors on their job sites. Human performance training helps employees understand risk adversity, particularly how the coincidental experience of an injury-free work history can cause increased risk and exposure to an employee simply because nothing bad has happened to them so far. Workers can become so used to risky practices that they often will assume they’ll be alright today and in the future.