This is the second of our three articles with Ron Gantt focusing on Safety Differently.
The focus of this article, though, is on Safety Differently and incident investigations.
Read on below to learn more, but before you do, if you're interested in Ron Gantt and Safety Differently, you'll no-doubt also be interested in the guide to the "new view" of safety we've got ready for you to download here. It includes discussions of HOP, HPI, Safety Differently, Safety-II, and Resilience Engineering, and it includes contributions from safety professionals around the world, including Ron Gantt.
We recently interviewed Ron Gantt about Safety Differently and asked him for some thoughts about incident investigations. Here's what he had to say.
Well, one change that organizations who adopt a Safety Differently approach will see fairly quickly is an increase in reporting of problems. That’s because when organizations start to see workers as solutions rather than problems, and when the organization starts to focus on helping workers overcome problems and be successful, this builds trust. Workers see managers as partners rather than merely problem creators.
Another change organizations practicing Safety Differently see in reporting is what sorts of things get reported. Traditional items, such as hazards and risks are reported, but other aspects of work that increase variability in performance, such as resource bottlenecks, pressure demands, and anomalies will get reported as well. These are often not see as “safety issues” per se, but organizations practicing Safety Differently realize that these issues not only create the potential for high risk, but also lead to production and quality issues as well. All of these present opportunities for improvement.
Managers in organizations practicing Safety Differently change their relationship with failure.
While not specifically looking for failures to occur, they understand that no organization is perfect. Therefore, failures are opportunities to learn and improve. Managers aren’t looking for perfection or “zero” because they know this is unrealistic. This perspective takes unnecessary and harmful blame off the table, making workers less afraid to report to begin with.
Incidents are changed in a Safety Differently approach in three ways.
First, the purpose of an accident investigation is not to blame and punish, but to learn and improve. Organizations practicing Safety Differently see accidents as an outcome of normal performance variability, or rather normal things coming together in abnormal ways. So an accident is an opportunity to learn about how the organization is really functioning and to improve it’s functioning in meaningful ways. Blame and punishment are not only irrelevant in this process, but will inhibit learning.
Second, investigations are often best performed with the help of those who actually do the work being investigated. They have the best information about how the work is normally performed and can provide unique perspectives on what happens. People often worry that involving these workers will lead to lying as people try to protect themselves. To this I respond, if you remove the threat people typically don’t feel a need to protect themselves. Therefore, is the lying a result of untrustworthy people or because we create an incentive for them to lie? In my experience, it’s the latter.
Finally, the best way to investigate an accident is to start by understanding how the work normally happens. People think of accidents as something quite separate from how work normally gets done, but in my experience this isn’t the case. In many accident investigations simply describing what the conditions are in which normal work happens is sufficient to explain how the accident happened. You not only find issues that contributed to the accident with this approach, you also identify other areas where improvements can be made, so the accident investigation becomes reactive and proactive at the same time.
We hope you enjoyed this article on what Safety Differently has to say about incident investigations. Remember this is one of a short series of articles about Safety Differently. You can also check out our What Is Safety Differently? article and our Safety Differently and Safety Training article for more information. Also, keep your eye out for that promised article on Dr. Todd Conklin's book Pre-Accident Investigations, coming very soon.
If you need some help with incident investigations at your work place, you may be interested in our Incident Management Software. Check the video below for more info.
To help train your workers about incident investigations, our online Incident Investigation training course may be a help. We've included a short sample video below.
And for even more information about incident investigations, you may find these articles helpful:
Finally, feel free to download the free guide below.
Learn how to design, create, deliver, and evaluate effective EHS training by following these best practices with our free step-by-step guide.