“There is almost no human action or decision that cannot be made to look flawed and less sensible in the misleading light of hindsight. It is essential that the critic should keep himself constantly aware of that fact.” ~Anthony Hidden, QC, Investigation into the Clapham Junction Railway Accident

Chronic Unease-The Hidden Ingredient

Safety Management is a Line Management Function~John Wettstein

Line Management safety leadership is crucial for successful safety performance.

In many organizations, the safety professional/advisor takes on line management responsibilities, even though the worker tends to follow their immediate supervisor’s directions. While everyone is on the same team a supervisor promoting productivity and a safety advisor promoting safety can cause conflict in goals and ultimately worker confusion. If productivity becomes the primary focus, safety doesn’t become the way to work, but a nuisance to do the work. Do workers focus on production or focus on safety? Since pay increases and promotions come from line management/production rather than safety, the division becomes even greater.

If safety must be continually visible in the field/worksite, the safety advisor may develop a safety cop reputation of identifying ‘unsafe/substandard’ behaviour/activities, rather than a recognized resource capable of providing assistance, advising, coaching, and monitoring to assist line management in carrying out their responsibilities.

If safety is a safety cop, policing and managing workers, they do not have time to analyze and provide recommendations for the safety system. Unless safety is accepted as a non-negotiable work performance standard, will the safety advisor be recognized as a part of the team?

Organizations need to communicate line management and safety roles, responsibilities, and expectations for line management and safety personnel.

Line Management communicates safety and leads by example. Safety and production become integrated.

Safety and productivity come from line management: Safe Production!

When Safety Shortcuts Become the Norm ~John Wettstein

Normalization of deviance: ever heard of it?  The term refers to the change that takes place, over a period of time, when people gradually stray from established standards without negative consequence until that lower standard becomes the norm.

The deviation is incremental, hardly noticeable.  As such, these small changes, again over time, are easily accepted.  In most cases, the changes that have taken place because of normalization of deviance only become apparent when an actual incident occurs.

To better understand how incremental change can court real harm, consider a lockout/tagout procedure for more than 750 volts of electrical energy.  General lockout/tagout steps are as follows:

  • isolate the electrical energy;
  • tag (and lock if possible);
  • test for potential; and,
  • apply worker’s protective grounding.

Well-designed procedures allow for the “human element,” meaning that in the event that one step is missed, another step should serve as a check to ensure the procedure does not fail.  In theory, if one of the four lockout/tagout steps is missed, another will act as a check and there should be no consequence.

Getting away with skipping a step may initially appear positive.  For example, some time may have been saved, fewer tools may have been required to complete the task, and fewer people may have been needed to perform the job.

Nothing unacceptable having happened, it may be that procedures are carried out this way again, intentionally.  This may particularly be the case under pressure or time constraints.

By repeating the approach, however, it gains credibility and the outcome supports the experience, which, over time, fosters a belief that this is now the “norm” and, as such, an acceptable standard.

By making an established four-step procedure a three-step process, the tolerance for human error has been decreased since one of the steps — a check — has been eliminated.