People: a problem or solution?
In a newly crafted paper, Sidney Dekker describes two opposing ways of thinking about humans at work: Are employees a problem to be controlled, or a solution to be harnessed? Outlining the evolution of these two perspectives, as well as their respective consequences for how we see and manage safety, this paper is a handy and accessible primer for starting a safety differently conversation. The paper is available under the resource tab above, or by clicking here.
UK-based architect Paul Bussey contacted me recently, offering to share information about a newly developed tool for integrating Safety in Design. The safe design of buildings and structures requires foresight into a myriad of potential hazards and work conditions – information which may be difficult to access and make meaningful early in the design process. To boost the capacity to embrace the often fragmented and complex information and make it available in a user friendly format, Paul has developed Safety Visually. The Safety Visually tool is described in a paper that you find under the resource tab, or by clicking here.
Paul is interested in feedback on this tool, as well as other interpretations on the same process. Feel free to use the reply field below to discuss and provide comments.
My question relates to Human Error Investigations.
I wish to discuss an actual ‘non-complex’ (eg not an air crash !) incident and how The New View would investigate it.
A worker decided to use a concrete borer on a footpath outside a shopping precinct in order to create a hole that a pole for a sign could be put into.
The concrete borer did its work and the concrete core was extracted.
It wasn’t till later that the worker looked at the extracted concrete core and saw that it contained a section of electrical cable which powered a nearby set of traffic lights !! The concrete corer had cut through the cable.
The simple answer could well be: Worker to do a Dial Before You Dig before doing any Concrete Coring.
How do you think Sidney Dekker would approach this “Human Error Investigation” ?
I can’t speak for Sidney, but I can say that we need to figure out why it made sense to the worker to do what he did. He didn’t want to cut through the cable. Find out how this job is normally completed and why and you’re well on your way.
Second, avoid counterfactuals. Saying what the worker should have done (or should have not done) often is seen as the cause of the accident (“worker failed to…”). But that is a counterfactual, i.e., it was counter to the facts, as in it didn’t happen. Investigations should find out what happened, not what didn’t happen. If we find out what happened (as much as we can) then we’ll be in a better place to figure out how to improve things in the future.
I hope this helps!
I found the of the pre-construction risk analysis described in Safety Visually to be interesting.
On a large hydro-electric project I recently worked on we were presented with a three dimensional virtual tour of the power house that was to be constructed. During our “tour” the presenter explained how the design team had taken much time to identify risks that workers in the facility would likely face. One way they did this was to interview operations staff of other similar facilities in order to find common design-related pain points that could influence their design. I wonder if the Safety Visually process places as much emphasis on gathering input from staff who have worked in or spent a lot of time in similar buildings or facilities?
As for considering the hazards that workers will face during construction; it’s hard to disagree with that idea. The earlier that thought is put into these matters the better. My only thought is that it would be very important to have input from those who are skilled in construction or construction safety and who have experience on similar projects.
Ultimately a technological solution is needed. We need to begin to systematically gather data about accidents, incidents, and other “pain points” on a global scale. With standardised data, it isn’t hard to imagine a world where designers are cued by their software to consider elements of safety by design early on.