Last week, we discussed how external factors like fatigue, frustration and pressure can break down safety training and habits and cause us to engage in risky behaviors. What's needed, we concluded, is a triggering mechanism that causes us to recognize that we're losing our self-control and pull back before we get hurt. This capacity is what I call advanced safety awareness. Let's now look at how to cultivate this awareness in ourselves and others and how to practice other techniques to guard against making the kinds of errors that lead to injury.
Fundamental Causes of Accidents
When reduced to the base elements, accidents are caused by four primary factors:
1. Not Watching What We're Doing
Most of us have had our fingers pinched in a car door at one time or another. Now if we had had our eyes on what we were doing our reactions would have taken over and we would have jerked our hand out of the way -- no injury just a close call. Not watching what we were doing took away our ability to react.
2. Not Concentrating on What We're Doing
Not all hazards are visible. Some hazards must be thought about and prepared for. We need to know they're lurking even if we can't immediately detect them with our eyes. Examples: A hot stove, ice on the highway and electricity. We need to be concentrating on the task we're performing to activate our capacity to recognize and avoid such hazards.
3. Being in or Moving Into The "Line of Fire"
Failure to recognize that we're in the line of fire is another primal accident cause. It's often the result of not keeping our eyes and mind on the task at hand.
4. Loss of Balance, Traction or Grip
This type of error is also apt to occur when our eyes or minds are not on task.
How Errors Happen
Mistakes are, by definition, not deliberate. So telling somebody to watch what they're doing may be a nice gesture, but it's worthless in preventing injuries. My wife would always tell my daughter to "drive safe" before leaving home and making the 10-hour drive back to college. Do you think she was planning on driving unsafe and would have if mom had not reminded her to "drive safe"?
So why do we make errors? As discussed last week, it's generally the result of external factors like rushing, frustration, fatigue or complacency. Telling somebody to "be careful" doesn't counteract these factors. But there is something that does!
4 Error Reduction Techniques
The antidote to risk factors is the teaching of a set of skills or critical error reduction techniques. There are four critical error techniques that, when practiced, definitely limit errors and the injuries they cause:
1. Self-Triggering on the State Before Errors Get Made
The first skill is the ability to recognize that we've passed into a state that causes risky behavior before something bad happens to us. Some people already do this type of thing. They're working on a project and nothing seems to be going right. Say a bolt is real tight and they can't seem to get it loose no mater what they do. They start jerking the wrench a little harder but before the wrench slips and they fall or hurt their shoulder they realize that they're getting frustrated and need to calm down. In other words, they trigger on frustration. They put the wrench down and go get a cup of coffee. When they return they're calmer and can thus take a reasoned approach to solve the problem like getting the right tool.
2. Learning from Close Calls & Small Errors to Prevent Big Ones
Learning from our OOPS! Even though we may be working on triggering on the state, we'll still make some errors along the way. Often when we make an error or have a close call, we just hope no one saw us make the error. The last thing we think about is learning from it. But this is an opportunity to look at the state to error pattern we were in at the time to prevent making a bigger error in the future.
3. Observing Others for the State to Error Pattern
This technique has three beneficial effects that prevent accidents:
- Watching others enables us to detect individuals in the state to error pattern so we can avoid them. We want to steer clear of these individuals like we would a reckless driver on the highway.
- Watching others in the state to error pattern makes us less likely to engage in the same behaviors as the observed individual -- and thus helps us avoid complacency.
- Watching others helps us protect the individuals we observe. That's because we'll probably recognize that persons are in the state to error pattern before they see it in themselves. This gives us a chance to help the person before an injury occurs. Although intervening like this is tricky business that requires tact, it's well worth the effort (and another article at a later date).
4. Working on our Habits
While there are a number of habits we could work on to improve our safety awareness and limit injuries, for purposes of this article I will leave you with just one: Start by dedicating one day to making a conscious effort to look at what you're doing all the time. I mean really look. I think you'll be surprised how often you don't watch where you walk, keep your hands, etc., and how much opportunity you have for improvement.
Learning new techniques isn't easy, especially for people who never think they're going to get hurt (which includes just about everybody). But if you can get them to work at it, I think you'll find that their safety performance will improve dramatically.
Editor's Note: After the first part of this story, many of you asked how to get more information about breaking the cycle of risky behaviors. I just want to let you know that this one of the topics Gary will talk about at the National Safety Council conference in Orlando on Sept. 22.
THE WARDROBE MALFUNCTION
I was doing a training segment to a room full of about 50 to 60 firemen. That morning, I had decided not to wear pantyhose, but to wear navy-toned knee-highs instead. Toward the end of my talk, I stood at the podium, crossed my ankles and waited for questions. That's when I noticed that my knee-highs were at my ankles.
To make matters worse, when I got back to the office, my co-worker asked how my presentation went. I told her 'fine, till the end.' Then she reached over, grabbed my arm and removed a 2-inch safety pin that was on my sleeve, with the dry cleaning tag still attached. I had been pointing at overheads for an hour during that session, and no one even mentioned the tag.
Editor's Note: What's the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you during a training session? Send your stories to me at email@example.com. (If you want to remain anonymous, just let me know and we won't print your name -- I promise.)
LEADERSHIP IN ACTION
|Eisenhower: Used diplomacy and tact to hold together a war-time coalition.|
A short quote from the great men and women of history.
"You do not lead by hitting people over the head -- that's assault, not leadership."
--Dwight D. Eisenhower