Author Archives: Per Ohstrom

Put your root cause analysis data to use

Posted: November 20th, 2017 in Investigations, Performance Improvement, Root Cause Analysis Tips, Software

 

“Just as the introduction of electricity shifted the world’s industrialized economies into higher gear a century ago, digital technologies are fueling economic activity today. This time, however, the transformation is unfolding exponentially faster.” from Digital America: A Tale of the Haves and Have Mores, McKinsey & Company

We live in an age of information, data is collected in evermore places and shared between people and machines in the IoT. Data collection and analysis is becoming easier and easier, with apps, new devices and software.

Still, in the construction industry 30% to 60% of contractors surveyed in the recent Construction Technology Report use manual processes or spreadsheets to manage takeoff, estimating, subcontractor prequalification, bids and data collection. Fewer than half of contractors responding to the survey use mobile apps for daily reporting, worker time entry, managing safety, or tracking job performance.

When it comes to investigating issues and doing root cause analysis, the TapRooT® approach yields effective and consistent results across different industries. For several years software has been available to support teams with their investigations. Now in it’s 6th version, the TapRooT® software offers the highest productivity. Charting incidents is easy, powerful tools assist with identifying Causal Factors and Root Causes, as well as with writing Corrective Actions.

New and improved graphing tools makes it easy to plot data, and trends can be better captured, over time. Watch this short video, or read more here. Stay tuned for updates about a future smart phone App.

#taproot_RCA

Five Trends that Will Impact Companies in Environment, Health and Safety in 2018

Posted: November 17th, 2017 in Performance Improvement, Quality, Root Cause Analysis Tips, TapRooT

 

As we approach 2018, now is a good time to look at some external trends to gauge what is coming down the pike. At System Improvements we recently fired up the crystal balls, and spotted five trends that will impact companies:

  • Proactive Safety Culture,
  • Reporting Capability
  • Focus on Prevention
  • Work force changes
  • Increased Drug Use

Let’s look at each of these.

Proactive Safety Culture: Executives continue to get more involved, safety is seen as an improvement opportunity and something to be managed, rather than a liability driven by chance or “workers unsafe actions”. Preventive methods will be used more, like work site evaluations, audits, functional job analysis, and ergonomics training. Instead of having impossible goals like “Zero Harm”, companies will set improvement KPIs, then investigate, track and trend incidents and near misses and put corrective actions in place

Reporting Capability: User- friendly software like TapRooT® and Enablon is available for capturing data and carrying out analysis. Mobile apps and devices like wearable technology enables rapid collection and dissemination of findings. Training is readily available to make sense of the data collected and empower the front line

Focus on Prevention: Companies take active steps to prevent injuries and promote health and safety. We will see more fitness and wellness initiatives but also focus on “intangible” issues like stress, fatigue and mental health. Companies out of line will face ever- increasing Workers Comp costs

Work Force Changes: The age distribution and values of workers are changing, with millennials entering the workforce. The shortage of skilled workers will get worse, and there will be more contract and temp workers. It will be important to involve all these groups in the EHSQ efforts. There will also be more lone and unsupervised workers, which makes behavior- based safety much more difficult to implement

Increased Use of Illegal and Legalized Drugs:  Serious safety, quality and environmental risk. Executives will have to find ways to manage the opioids cycle where injuries drive prescriptions and workers under the influence of opioids get injured again… In some jurisdictions legalization of marijuana is disqualifying a large share of the worker pool from safely operating vehicles, machinery and equipment. In the Hotels & restaurant industry, research found up to 19% of workers using drugs on a regular basis, a clear risk in e.g. kitchen areas. Alcohol will continue to be an issue, not least in Mining and Construction where up to a fifth of workers are estimated to be affected.

A good way to prepare for these trends is to do effective Root Cause Analysis. The TapRooT® methodology helps companies identify root causes of incidents, and put effective corrective actions in place. The process is also used for proactive audits, where issues can be nipped in the bud. Click here for more information: 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Training.

Top Root Causes of Accidents

Posted: November 15th, 2017 in Human Performance, Investigations, Performance Improvement, Root Causes

 

TapRooT® has been used for root cause analysis in industries around the world for almost 30 years. When talking incidents and near misses with our customers, there are certain root causes that come up more than others. It is interesting to take a closer look, and think about what can be done about them.

Supervision: Many incidents are due to lack of supervision during work, and lack of job preparations. Verbal communications are often not heard or understood correctly, sometimes due to noise or PPE.
Human-Machine Interface: Operators often have difficulties interacting with equipment due to its design, or because the interface like screens, gauges or signals are not easy to use.
Ineffective Training or Lack of Training: These cause incidents in a surprising number of cases.
Human Engineering: Many workers are faced with systems that are too complex. Poor physical work environments also cause fatigue, and it becomes difficult to stay alert.
Procedures: There are many instances over the years where procedures are not used or are so outdated that they no longer reflect process reality and need improvement.

The TapRooT® system is effective in identifying root causes of a problem, and with deciding corrective action. As a matter of fact, the dedicated Corrective Action Helper® is part of the methodology, and helps generate effective solutions. It is included in the different “Investigations…” book sets available here http://www.taproot.com/store/

Root Cause Audits Prevent Environmental Excursions

Posted: September 27th, 2017 in Investigations, Performance Improvement, Root Cause Analysis Tips

All too often we hear stories about sewage spills and overflows, causing environmental damage and costing utilities and operators large fines. Sometimes the causes are catastrophic, like hurricanes. Unfortunately most of the time the reason is human performance and equipment malfunctions.

King County in Washington state recently had to pay a $361,000 fine for spilling 235 M gallons of sewage into the Puget sound. An investigation found the causes to be inadequate maintenance, reliability issues and lack of backup equipment. There was also a lack of employee training. Besides the fine, the county has to better monitor emergency bypasses, improve the reliability of equipment and upgrade alarm features in the plant control system.

A closer look reveals an inexpensive float switch was at the core of the issue. In the past this type of switch has repeatedly clogged, jammed and failed. To keep operations going, employees would bend the rod back in place instead of replacing it. All in all direct plant damage is $35M. This is the fourth environmental excursion since 2000, a cost which is not quantified, but large.

Another example is a recent 830,000 gallon sewage release into the Grand River in Ottawa County, Michigan, due to a power outage. Six months ago a broken 45 year old pipe caused a 2 M gallon spill at the same location. Replacement cost of the pipe is $5 M, funds are not available so the utility is patching and hoping for the best.

These are just two recent cases that would have benefited from doing a root cause audit. The methodology is similar to a root cause analysis, except of course it is done before any incident, and aims to find and fix the most impactful risks.

Steps in a root cause audit

Planning for and doing an audit typically follows the following pattern:

  1. Plan the audit, determine the process flow of problems that could turn into significant issues
  2. Perform the audit and record the findings
  3. Define the significant issues (similar to causal factors in a root cause analysis)
  4. Use the Root Cause Tree to analyze each significant issue
  5. Analyze any generic causes for each root cause
  6. Develop preventive fixes
  7. Get approvals, and implement the plan

When done, take a moment to recognize the people that helped, and do not forget to celebrate! To make things easier, it is worthwhile to learn from those that came before you!

We have long experience with investigations and corrective actions that work. A new book by Paradies, Unger & Janney “TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis for Audits and Proactive Performance Improvement” has practical check lists and advice on auditing and implementing corrective action. Read more and order your personal copy here: http://www.taproot.com/store/TapRooT-and-reg-for-Audits-Book-Set.html

Per Ohstrom is Vice President of Sales at System Improvements, Inc. #TapRooT_RCA

The world’s most modern Navy struggles with outdated culture

Posted: September 6th, 2017 in Accidents, Current Events, Root Cause Analysis Tips

To students of safety and accident prevention, the recent collisions involving the guided missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) and USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) seem strange. How can this happen with top shelf modern warships, equipped with state-of-the-art electronics, radar and GPS? Hint: look for human performance issues, and a culture of blame and punishment.

These are tragic accidents, with unnecessary loss of lives. The Navy’s immediate response was a 24-hour “safety stand down,” and a 60-day review of surface fleet operations, training, and certification. Perhaps more significantly, the Seventh Fleet commander Vice Admiral Aucoin was fired, due to a “loss of confidence in his ability to command.”

And this is where the problems start. To an outside observer, the Navy culture of “firing those responsible” seems very old fashioned. Not only do we waste money on repairing ship damage that should never have happened, we also voluntarily get rid of a large investment in recruiting and training with each officer let go.

A better answer is to analyze what happened in each case, find the root causes and put in place corrective actions to prevent the same accidents from happening again. The Navy investigation results are classified, but let me offer up two possible causes:

1. Guided missile destroyers are smaller, leaner and meaner than the conventional destroyers they replaced. They sail with a smaller crew and fewer officers. However, there is still the same amount of horizon to scan, so to say, so officers will have larger spans of responsibility and fewer opportunities to rest. Fatigue is a powerful influence on human performance.

2. The world is a dangerous place, and getting worse. A shrinking Navy is deployed on the same number of missions around the world, not allowing enough time in between for maintenance of ships and systems. Training and development of crews also suffers.

Our long experience in root cause analysis tells us that no matter how sophisticated systems or equipment are, they need maintenance to work properly. There is also always human factors involved. Human performance is fickle, and influenced by many factors such as fatigue, alertness, training, or layout of control panels. It is better to do a thorough RCA to identify causal factors and fix them, than to fire people up and down the chain of command and still have the same issues again later.

#TapRooT_RCA

Six Sigma: Better Root Cause Analysis and Corrective Actions

Posted: June 22nd, 2017 in Performance Improvement, Quality, Root Cause Analysis Tips

I remember first learning about root cause analysis during Six Sigma training. The main methods we used were 5 Whys and Fishbone diagrams, but somehow we had a hard time arriving at good corrective actions. It took time and testing to get there, and still the fixes were not always robust.

Since then, I have learned a lot more about RCA. Unguided deductive reasoning tools like 5 Whys or Fishbones rely heavily on the knowledge and experience of the investigator. Since nobody can be an expert in every contributing field, this leads to investigator bias. Or, as the old adage goes: “If a hammer is your only tool, all your problems will start looking like nails”.

Other issues with deductive reasoning are investigations identifying only single causes (when in reality there are several), or ignorance of generic root causes that have broader quality impacts. Results will also be inconsistent; if several teams analyze the same issue, results can be wildly divergent. Which one is correct? All of them? None?

This is where the TapRooT® methodology has benefits over other tools. It is an expert system that guides investigators to look at a range of potential causal factors, like human engineering, management systems and procedures. There are no iterations of hypotheses to prove or disprove so investigator bias is not a problem.

The process is repeatable, identifies all specific and generic causes and guides the formulation of strong corrective actions. It is centered on humans, systems and processes, and the decisions they make every day.

The supporting TapRooT® Software is designed to enable investigators to keep efforts focused and organized:

  1. define the problem in a SnapCharT®
  2. identify Causal Factors and Root Causes with the Root Cause Tree®, and
  3. formulate sustainable corrective actions using the Corrective Action Helper® module

The TapRooT® process avoids blame, is easy to learn and quickly improves root cause analysis outcomes.

In Six Sigma parlance, the SnapCharT® is used for problem definition (Define), the Root Cause Tree® and trending for root cause identification (Measure and Analyze), and the corrective action process to define effective fixes (Improve).

#TapRooT_RCA

Construction Safety: Human Cost, OSHA Fines and Lawsuits…

Posted: June 5th, 2017 in Accidents, Human Performance, TapRooT, Training

Knowing that each year about 900 construction workers do not come home to their families after work, safety on construction work sites must be taken seriously.

AGC, the Associated General Contractors of America recently published a study together with Virginia Tech, “Preventing Fatalities in the Construction Industry”. There are some interesting findings:

  • Dangerous Lunch Hour: construction site fatalities peak at noon, and are much lower on Fridays than Monday through Thursday
  • Small Contractors (less than 9 employees) are overrepresented in the statistics, with a fatality rate of 26 per 100,000 workers
  • Fully 1/3 of fatalities are from falls, and about 29% from Transportation incidents with e.g trucks or pickups
  • More experienced workers are not safer: fatalities start increasing after age 35 and keep growing so that 65 year olds are at the highest risk
  • Industrial projects are the most dangerous, followed by Residential and Heavy construction projects

The consequences of a fatality are devastating. There is a great human cost where families will have to deal with grief as well as financial issues. For the company there may be OSHA fines, law suits and criminal investigations. There really is no excuse for a builder not to have an active safety program, no matter how small the company.

Basic safety activities include providing and checking PPE and fall protection, correct use of scaffolding and ladders, on- going safety training, check- ins and audits. It is also a good idea to actively promote a safety culture, and to use a root cause analysis tool to investigate accidents and near misses, and prevent them from happening again.

The TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis methodology is a proven way of getting to the bottom of incidents, and come up with effective corrective actions. Focus is on human performance, and how workers can be separated from hazards like electricity, falls or moving equipment.

We can organize on- site training, or start by signing up for a public course. We offer the 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Training as well as the introductory 2-Day TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis Training class.

Be proactive, do not let preventable accidents catch up with you… call us today!

#TapRooT_RCA #safety

Building a Safety Culture

Posted: May 26th, 2017 in Medical/Healthcare, Performance Improvement, TapRooT

A Safety Culture can be defined as “the sum of what an organization is and does in the pursuit of safety”. Managing company culture is a task of the corner office; top management needs to embrace the safety mindset -that every employee and customer is free from harm.

In the health care field The Joint Commission (an accreditation organization for hospitals) takes patient safety very seriously. Their document, “11 Tenets of a Safety Culture” (https://www.jointcommission.org/assets/1/6/SEA_57_infographic_11_tenets_safety_culture.pdf) contains a lot of wisdom that can be applied in continuous safety improvement everywhere:

  1. Apply a transparent, nonpunitive approach to reporting and learning from adverse events, close calls and unsafe conditions.
  2. Use clear, just, and transparent risk-based processes for recognizing and distinguishing human errors and system errors from unsafe, blameworthy actions.
  3. CEOs and all leaders adopt and model appropriate behaviors and champion efforts to eradicate intimidating behaviors.
  4. Policies support safety culture and the reporting of adverse events, close calls and unsafe conditions. These policies are enforced and communicated to all team members.
  5. Recognize care team members who report adverse events and close calls, who identify unsafe conditions, or who have good suggestions for safety improvements. Share these “free lessons” with all team members (i.e., feedback loop).
  6. Determine an organizational baseline measure on safety culture performance using a validated tool.
  7. Analyze safety culture survey results from across the organization to find opportunities for quality and safety improvement.
  8. Use information from safety assessments and/or surveys to develop and implement unit-based quality and safety improvement initiatives designed to improve the culture of safety.
  9. Embed safety culture team training into quality improvement projects and organizational processes to strengthen safety systems.
  10. Proactively assess system strengths and vulnerabilities, and prioritize them for enhancement or improvement.
  11. Repeat organizational assessment of safety culture every 18 to 24 months to review progress and sustain improvement.

A formal safety culture statement like this is a good start. To avoid it becoming a “flavor of the day” initiative, it is important to put in place a robust root cause analysis method like TapRooT®. This lends immediate support to Tenets 1. and 2. above.  It is also important to empower employees at every level to stop risky behavior.

Every organization benefits from an objective and impersonal way of investigating or auditing safety incidents, that gets to the root causes. Instead of blaming, re-training or firing individuals more effective corrective actions can be implemented, and safety issues dealt with once and for all.

#TapRooT_RCA

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