Category: Accidents

My 20+ Year Relationship with 5-Why’s

December 11th, 2017 by

I first heard of 5-Why’s over 20 years ago when I got my first job in Quality. I had no experience of any kind, I got the job because I worked with the Quality Manager’s wife in another department and she told him I was a good guy. True story…but that’s how things worked back then!

When I was first exposed to the 5-Why concept, it did not really make any sense to me; I could not understand how it actually could work, as it seemed like the only thing it revealed was the obvious. So, if it is obvious, why do I need it? That is a pretty good question from someone who did not know much at the time.

I dived into Quality and got all the certifications, went to all the classes and conferences, and helped my company build an industry leading program from the ground up. A recurring concept in the study and materials I was exposed to was 5-Why. I learned the “correct” way to do it. Now I understood it, but I still never thought it was a good way to find root causes.

I transferred to another division of the company to run their safety program. I did not know how to run a safety program – I did know all the rules, as I had been auditing them for years, but I really did not know how to run the program. But I did know quality, and those concepts helped me instill an improvement mindset in the leaders which we successfully applied to safety.

The first thing I did when I took the job was to look at the safety policies and procedures, and there it was; when you have an incident, “ask Why 5 times” to get your root cause! That was the extent of the guidance. So whatever random thought was your fifth Why would be the root cause on the report! The people using it had absolutely no idea how the concept worked or how to do it. And my review of old reports validated this. Since then I have realized this is a common theme with 5-Why’s; there is a very wide variation in the way it is used. I don’t believe it works particularly well even when used correctly, but it usually isn’t in my experience.

Since retiring from my career and coming to work with TapRooT®, I’ve had literally hundreds of conversations with colleagues, clients, and potential clients about 5-Why’s. I used to be somewhat soft when criticizing 5-Why’s and just try to help people understand why TapRooT® gets better results. Recently, I’ve started to take a more militant approach. Why? Because most of the people I talk to already know that 5-Why’s does not work well, but they still use it anyway (easier/cheaper/quicker)!

So it is time to take the gloves off; let’s not dance around this any longer. To quote Mark Paradies:
“5-Why’s is Root Cause Malpractice!”

To those that are still dug in and take offense, I do apologize! I can only share my experience.

For more information, here are some previous blog articles:

What’s Wrong With Cause-and-Effect, 5-Why’s, & Fault Trees

Comparing TapRooT® to Other Root Cause Tools

What’s Fundamentally Wrong with 5-Whys?

Monday Accident & Lesson Learned: Near Miss Incidents at Camden Junction South London

December 11th, 2017 by

 

The RAIB recently published an investigation report concerning track worker near miss incidents at Camden Junction South, London. Click here to view the report.

Fake News or Real?

December 6th, 2017 by

FakeNews

That’s the headline. Here is the link:

http://www.abcnews-us.com/2017/12/05/morgue-employee-cremated-by-mistake-while-taking-a-nap/

Could it really be true? I guess the funeral home industry needs TapRooT®!

(Editor’s update: After this post was published, Snopes reported this as fake news and the news story was removed. Thank goodness!)

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: Firm fined after worker severs fingers

December 4th, 2017 by

An employee lost four fingers, broke several bones and dislocated his wrist cleaning steel shafts on a metal working lathe. The investigation found that the company did not ensure the work was carried out safely.  Read the story here.

Avoid scenarios like this by conducting proactive root cause analysis investigations. Protect your people from life-changing injuries that can be avoided. Click here for a list of our upcoming 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Team Leader Trainings that include training on the proactive use of TapRooT®.

OSHA Top 10 Violations

December 1st, 2017 by

TapRooT® Root Cause Analysis can help with hazard prevention and control.

Sign up for training and learn how to avoid incidents, minimize risks and provide workers with safe working conditions.

How Far Away is Death?

November 28th, 2017 by

 

Did you know that e-cigarettes using lithium batteries can spark explosion dangers? Devastating injuries can result.

The U.S. Fire Administration published a July 2017 report entitled, “Electronic Cigarette Fires and Explosions in the United States, 2009-2016.” According to the report, the number of e-cigarette fires and explosions are increasing over time. Click here to read the report.

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: Are you prepared for adverse weather?

November 28th, 2017 by

Callback shared reported incidents spawned by typical winter weather. Click here to read the report.

How far away is death?

November 23rd, 2017 by

CCTV captures woman’s near miss on train tracks in Australia.

Click here to view video.

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: NTSB Reports that “Ignored Safety Procedures, Fractured Safety Program Led to Fatal Amtrak Derailment”

November 20th, 2017 by

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This accident may seem like a simple case of a supervisor failing to make a call. However, the NTSB investigation shows there were many more issues that caused the fatalities.

Here is the press release from the NTSB:

Ignored Safety Procedures, Fractured Safety Program Led to Fatal Amtrak Derailment

11/14/2017

WASHINGTON (Nov. 14, 2017) — The National Transportation Safety Board determined Tuesday the April 3, 2016, derailment of Amtrak train 89 near Chester, Pennsylvania was caused by deficient safety management across many levels of Amtrak and the resultant  lack of a clear, consistent and accepted vision for safety.

A backhoe operator and a track supervisor were killed, and 39 people were injured when Amtrak train 89, traveling on the Northeast Corridor from Philadelphia to Washington on track 3, struck a backhoe at about 7:50 a.m. The train engineer saw equipment and people working on and near track 3 and initiated emergency braking that slowed the train from 106 mph to approximately 99 mph at the time of impact.

The NTSB also determined allowing a passenger train to travel at maximum authorized speed on unprotected track where workers were present, the absence of shunting devices, the foreman’s failure to conduct a job briefing at the start of the shift, all coupled with the numerous inconsistent views of safety and safety management throughout Amtrak, led to the accident.

“Amtrak’s safety culture is failing, and is primed to fail again, until and unless Amtrak changes the way it practices safety management,” said NTSB Chairman Robert L. Sumwalt. “Investigators found a labor-management relationship so adversarial that safety programs became contentious at the bargaining table, with the unions ultimately refusing to participate.”

The NTSB also noted the Federal Railroad Administration’s failure to require redundant signal protection, such as shunting, for maintenance-of-way work crews contributed to this accident.

Post-accident toxicology determined that the backhoe operator tested positive for cocaine, and the track supervisor and tested positive for codeine and morphine.   The locomotive engineer tested positive for marijuana. The NTSB determined that while drug use was not a factor in this accident, it was symptomatic of a weak safety culture at Amtrak.

As a result of this investigation, the NTSB issued 14 safety recommendations including nine to Amtrak.
The NTSB also made two safety recommendations to the Federal Railroad Administration, and three safety recommendations were issued to the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division, American Railway and Airway Supervisors Association, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, and Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen.

The abstract of the NTSB’s final report, that includes the findings, probable cause and safety recommendations is available online at https://go.usa.gov/xnWpg.  The final report will be publicly released in the next several days.

The webcast of the board meeting for this investigation is available for 90 days at http://ntsb.capitolconnection.org/.

Contact: NTSB Media Relations
490 L’Enfant Plaza, SW 
Washington, DC 20594 
Terry Williams 
(202) 314-6100 
Terry.williams@ntsb.gov

 

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: Passenger train collides with buffer stops

November 13th, 2017 by

A passenger train collided with buffer stops. The RAIB reported that the accident occurred becaue the driver was suffering from fatigue and experienced microsleep. Real the full report here.

How Far Away is Death?

November 9th, 2017 by

A worker was dragged with a chain when a meat hook impaled him through the head behind his ear. The worker remained conscious and “jovial” throughout the 2014 incident. Click here to read the story on “Sunshine Coastal Daily.”

Interviewing & Evidence Collection Tip: Preparing Your Accident Investigation Kit

November 9th, 2017 by

 

Last week we talked about being ready for the unexpected to happen, including preparing an accident investigation grab-and-go kit. Let’s flesh that out a little more.

I mentioned that an accident investigation kit can be as simple as forms (such as a form to record initial observations of the witnesses) and a disposable camera. Here are some other ideas that are useful across industries:

Cones

Tape measure

Flashlight

Evidence tags and bags

Tweezers

Work and latex gloves

PPE

Barricade tape

Camera & tripod

Graph Paper

Witness Statement Forms

Paper, clipboard, pen

Copy of  Accident Investigation Policy

What other ideas do you have? Comment below.

Join me and Reb Brickey on February 26 and 27, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee for our TapRooT® Evidence Collection and Interviewing Techniques to Sharpen Investigation Skills to learn more about this topic.

Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: Review of a Comprehensive Review

November 6th, 2017 by

ComprehensiveReview_Final.pdfReportScreenShot

What will it take for the US Navy surface fleet (or at least the 7th Fleet) to stop crashing ships and killing sailors? That is the question that was suppose to be answered in the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents. (See the reference here: Comprehensive+Review_Final.pdf). This article critiques the report that senior Navy officials produced that recommended changes to improve performance.

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If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging!!
Will Rogers

The report starts with two and a half pages of how wonderful the US Navy is. The report then blames the crews for the accidents. The report stated:

In each incident, there were fundamental failures to responsibly plan, prepare and execute ship activities to avoid undue operational risk. These ships failed as a team to use available information to build and sustain situational awareness on the Bridge and prevent hazardous conditions from developing. Moreover, leaders and teams failed as maritime professionals by not adhering to safe navigational practices.

It also blamed the local command (the 7th Fleet) by saying:

Further, the recent series of mishaps revealed weaknesses in the command structures in-place to oversee readiness and manage operational risk for forces forward deployed in Japan. In each of the four mishaps there were decisions at headquarters that stemmed from a culturally engrained “can do” attitude, and an unrecognized accumulation of risk that resulted in ships not ready to safely operate at sea.

Now that we know that more senior brass, the CNO, the Secretary of the Navy, the Secretary of Defense, the Congress, or the President (current or past) have nothing to do with the condition of the Navy, we can go on to read about their analysis and fixes.

The report states that individual root cause analysis of US Navy crashes were meant to examine individual unit performance and did NOT consider:

  • Management Systems (Doctrine, Organization, Leadership, Personnel)
  • Facilities and Material
  • Training and Education

The “Comprehensive Report” was designed to do a more in-depth analysis that considers the factors listed above. The report found weaknesses in all of the above areas and recommended improvements in:

  • Fundamentals
  • Teamwork
  • Operational Safety
  • Assessment
  • Culture

The report states:

The recommendations described in this report address the skills, knowledge, capabilities, and processes needed to correct the abnormal conditions found in these five areas, which led to an accumulation of risk in the Western Pacific. The pressure to meet rising operational demand over time caused Commanders, staff and crew to rationalize shortcuts under pressure. The mishap reports support the assertion that there was insufficient rigor in seeking and solving problems at three critical stages: during planning in anticipation of increased tasking, during practice/rehearsal for abnormal or emergency situations in the mishap ships, and in execution of the actual events. This is important, because it is at these stages where knowledge and skills are built and tested. Evidence of skill proficiency (on ships) and readiness problems (at headquarters) were missed, and over time, even normalized to the point that more time could be spent on operational missions. Headquarters were trying to manage the imbalance, and up to the point of the mishaps, the ships had been performing operationally with good outcomes, which ultimately reinforced the rightness of trusting past decisions. This rationalized the continued deviation from the sound training and maintenance practices that set the conditions for safe operations.

The report mentions, but does not emphasize, what I believe to be the main problem:

The findings in chapters four through eight and appendix 9.10 underscore the imbalance between the number of ships in the Navy today and the increasing number of operational missions assigned to them. The Navy can supply a finite amount of forces for operations from the combined force of ships operating from CONUS and based abroad; this finite supply is based both on the size of the force as well as the readiness funding available to man, train, equip and sustain that force. Headquarters are working to manage the imbalance. U.S. Navy ships homeported in the continental United States (CONUS) balance maintenance, training and availability for operations (deployments and/or surge); the Pacific Fleet is re-examining its ability to maintain this balance for ships based in Japan as well. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and extended Continuing Resolutions, the ability to supply forces to the full demand is – and will remain – limited.

The report does not say how many more ships the 7th Fleet or the US Navy needs.

The report also stated:

The risks that were taken in the Western Pacific accumulated over time, and did so insidiously. The dynamic environment normalized to the point where individuals and groups of individuals could no longer recognize that the processes in place to identify, communicate and assess readiness were no longer working at the ship and headquarters level.

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This could be used as a definition of normalization of deviation. To read more about this, see the article about Admiral Rickover’s philosophy of operational excellence and normalization of deviation by CLICKING HERE.

Normalization of deviation has been common in the US Navy, especially the surface fleet, with their “Git er Dun” attitude. But I’m now worried that the CNO (Chief of Naval Operation), who was trained as a Navy Nuke, might not remember Admiral Rickover’s lessons. I also worry that the submarine force, which has had its own series of accidents over the past decade, may take shortcuts with nuclear safety if the emphasis on mission accomplishment becomes preeminent and resources are squeezed by Washington bureaucrats.

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The military has been in a constant state of warfare for at least 15 years. One might say that since the peacekeeping missions of the Clinton administration, the military has been “ridden hard and put up wet” every year since that mission started. This abuse can’t continue without further detrimental effects to readiness and performance in the field.

The report summary ends with:

Going forward, the Navy must develop and formalize “firebreaks” into our force generation and employment systems to guard against a slide in standards. We must continue to build a culture – from the most junior Sailor to the most senior Commander – that values achieving and maintaining high operational and warfighting standards of performance. These standards must be manifest in our approach to the fundamentals, teamwork, operational safety, and assessment. These standards must be enforced in our equipment, our individuals, our unit teams, and our fleets. This Comprehensive Review aims to define the problems with specificity, and offers several general and specific recommendations to get started on making improvements to instilling those standards and strengthen that culture.

This is the culture for reactor operations in the Nuclear Navy. But changing a culture in the surface fleet will be difficult, especially when any future accidents are analyzed using the same poor root cause analysis that the Navy has been applying since the days of sail.

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After the summary, the report summarizes the blame oriented root cause analysis that I have previously reviewed HERE and HERE.

Another quote from the report that points out the flaws in US Navy root cause analysis is:

Leadership typically goes through several phases following a major mishap: ordering an operational pause or safety stand down; assembling a team to determine what happened and why; and developing a list of discrete actions for improvement. Causes are identified, meaningful actions taken, and there has been repeated near- term success in instilling improved performance. However, these improvements may only have marginal effect in the absence of programs and processes to ensure lessons are not forgotten. Still, all levels of command must evaluate the sufficiency of internal programs and processes to self-assess, trend problems, and develop and follow through on corrective actions in the wake of mishaps.”

Instead of thinking that the lessons from previous accidents have somehow been forgotten, a more reasonable conclusion is that the Navy really isn’t learning appropriate lessons and their root cause analysis and their corrective actions are ineffective. Of course, admitting this would mean that their current report is, also, probably misguided (since the same approach is used). Therefore they can’t admit one of their basic problems and this report’s corrective actions will also be short lived and probably fail.

The 33 people (a large board) performing the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents were distinguished insiders. All had either previous military/DoD/government affiliations or had done contracting or speaking work for the Navy. I didn’t recognize any of the members as a root cause analysis expert. I didn’t see this review board as one that would “rock the boat” or significantly challenge the status quo. This isn’t to say that they are unintelligent or are bad people. They are some of the best and brightest. But they are unlikely to be able to see the problems they are trying to diagnose because they created them or at least they have been surrounded by the system for so long that they find it difficult to challenge the system.

The findings and recommendations in the report are hard to evaluate. Without a thorough, detailed, accurate root cause analysis of the four incidents that the report was based upon (plus the significant amount of interviews that were conducted with no details provided), it is hard to tell if the finding are just opinions and if the recommendations are agenda items that people on the review board wanted to get implemented. I certainly can’t tell if the recommended fixes will actually cause a culture change when that culture change may not be supported by senior leadership and congressional funding.

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One more point that I noticed is that certain “hot button” morale issues were not mentioned. This could mean that certain factors effecting manning, training time wasted, and disciplinary issues aren’t being addressed. Even mentioning an example in this critique of the report seems risky in our very sensitive politically correct culture. Those aboard ships know examples of the type of issues I’m referring to, therefore, I won’t go into more detail. If, however, certain issues won’t be discussed and directly addressed, the problems being created won’t be solved.

Finally, it was good to see references to human factors and fatigue in the report. Unfortunately, I don’t know if the board members actually understand the fundamentals of human performance.

For example, it seems that senior military leadership expects the Commanding Officer, the Officer of the Deck, or even the Junior Officer of the Deck to take bold, decisive action when faced with a crisis they have never experienced before and that they have never had training and practice in handling. Therefore, here is a simple piece of basic human factors theory:

If you expect people to take bold, decisive action when faced with a crisis,
you will frequently be disappointed. If you expect that sailors and officers
will have to act in a crisis situations, they better be highly practiced
in what they need to do. In most cases, you would be much better off to
spend time and energy avoiding putting people in a crisis situation.

My father was a fighter ace in World War II. One of the things he learned as he watched a majority of the young fighter pilots die in their first month or even first week of combat was that there was no substitute for experience in arial combat. Certainly early combat experience led to the death of some poor pilots or those who just couldn’t get the feel of leading an aircraft with their shots. But he also observed that inexperienced good pilots also fell victim to the more experienced Luftwaffe pilots. If a pilot could gain experience (proficiency), then their chances of surviving the next mission increased dramatically.

An undertrained, undermanned, fatigue crew is a recipe for disaster. Your best sailors will decide to leave the Navy rather than facing long hours with little thanks. Changing a couple of decades of neglect of our Navy will take more than the list of recommendations I read in the Comprehensive Review of Recent Surface Force Incidents. Until more ships and more sailors are supplied, the understaffed, undertrained, under appreciated,  under supported, limited surface force that we have today will be asked to do too much with too little.

That’s my critique of the Comprehensive Review. What lessons should we learn?

  • You need to have advanced root cause analysis to learn from your experience. (See About TapRooT® for more information.)
  • Blame is not the start of a performance improvement effort.
  • Sometimes senior leaders really do believe that they can apply the same old answers and expect a different result. Who said that was the definition of insanity?
  • If you can’t mention a problem, you can’t solve it.
  • People in high stress situations will often make mistakes, especially if they are fatigued and haven’t been properly trained. (And you shouldn’t blame them if they do … You put them there!)
  • Just because you are in senior management, that doesn’t mean that you know how to find and fix the root causes of human performance problems. Few senior managers have had any formal training in doing this.

Once you have had a chance to review the report, leave your comments below.

Human Factors Issue in USS John S McCain Crash Not Specifically Identified in Navy Report

November 3rd, 2017 by

The report issues by the US Navy had enough details to identify a human factors issue in the steering system of the USS John S McCain. However, the report identified the main issue as a training problem. I think they missed a significant human factors issue in this investigation. The following details explain what I mean.

Here is a quote from the report:

“At 0519, the Commanding Officer noticed the Helmsman (the watchstander steering the ship) having difficulty maintaining course while also adjusting the throttles for speed control. In response, he ordered the watch team to divide the duties of steering and throttles, maintaining course control with the Helmsman while shifting speed control to another watchstander known as the Lee Helm station, who sat directly next to the Helmsman at the panel to control these two functions, known as the Ship’s Control Console. See Figures 3 and 4. This unplanned shift caused confusion in the watch team, and inadvertently led to steering control transferring to the Lee Helm Station without the knowledge of the watch team. The CO had only ordered speed control shifted. Because he did not know that steering had been transferred to the Lee Helm, the Helmsman perceived a loss of steering.”

McCainHelm

“Steering was never physically lost. Rather, it had been shifted to a different control station and watchstanders failed to recognize this configuration. Complicating this, the steering control transfer to the Lee Helm caused the rudder to go amidships (centerline). Since the Helmsman had been steering 1-4 degrees of right rudder to maintain course before the transfer, the amidships rudder deviated the ship’s course to the left.Additionally, when the Helmsman reported loss of steering, the Commanding Officer slowed the ship to 10 knots and eventually to 5 knots, but the Lee Helmsman reduced only the speed of the port shaft as the throttles were not coupled together (ganged). The starboard shaft continued at 20 knots for another 68 seconds before the Lee Helmsman reduced its speed. The combination of the wrong rudder direction, and the two shafts working opposite to one another in this fashion caused an un-commanded turn to the left (port) into the heavily congested traffic area in close proximity to three ships, including the ALNIC. See Figure 5.”

McCainCollision

“Although JOHN S MCCAIN was now on a course to collide with ALNIC, the Commanding Officer and others on the ship’s bridge lost situational awareness. No one on the bridge clearly understood the forces acting on the ship, nor did they understand the ALNIC’s course and speed relative to JOHN S MCCAIN during the confusion.Approximately three minutes after the reported loss of steering, JOHN S MCCAIN regained positive steering control at another control station, known as Aft Steering, and the Lee Helm gained control of both throttles for speed and corrected the mismatch between the port and starboard shafts. These actions were too late, and at approximately 0524 JOHN S MCCAIN crossed in front of ALNIC’s bow and collided. See Figure 6.”

McCainCollision2

Also, from the report:

“Because steering control was in backup manual at the helm station, the offer of control existed at all the other control stations (Lee Helm, Helm forward station, Bridge Command and Control station and Aft Steering Unit). System design is such that any of these stations could have taken control of steering via drop down menu selection and the Lee Helm’s acceptance of the request. If this had occurred, steering control would have been transferred.”

“When taking control of steering, the Aft Steering Helmsman failed to first verify the rudder position on the After Steering Control Console prior to taking control. This error led to an exacerbated turn to port just prior to the collision, as the indicated rudder position was 33 degrees left, vice amidships. As a result, the rudder had a left 33 degrees order at the console at this time, exacerbating the turn to port.”

“Several Sailors on watch during the collision with control over steering were temporarily assigned from USS ANTIETAM (CG 54) with significant differences between the steering control systems of both ships and inadequate training to compensate for these differences.”

“Multiple bridge watchstanders lacked a basic level of knowledge on the steering control system, in particular the transfer of steering and thrust control between stations. Contributing, personnel assigned to ensure these watchstanders were trained had an insufficient level of knowledge to effectively maintain appropriate rigor in the qualification program. The senior most officer responsible for these training standards lacked a general understanding of the procedure for transferring steering control between consoles.”

The Navy report concludes that this problem was related to training. Although training may have been an issue, training was made much more difficult (complex) by a poorly human factored design. The design didn’t consider the user.

In my experience (I was a 1st Lieutenant on a cruiser – the USS Arkansas, CGN-41), Seaman who are Boatswains Mates are the least technically inclined sailors on the ship. These are the people who stand this type of watch. The job of guiding a long heavy ship, turning it, and keeping it on course using a rudder mounted on the stern can be a thing of beauty when an experienced helmsman knows what they are doing. But not everyone standing the watch is that good. Obviously this sailor was having trouble compensating for current (obvious when you see how far he was steering off the ordered track in Figure 6 above).

On the ships that I served aboard (30 years ago), the steering and helm systems appeared quite simple. There was only one console on the bridge to steer from and only one place on the bridge to indicate the ships speed input that was communicated to the throttleman in the engine room. You could shift steering to aft steering, but this was mainly a process of them manually taking over from the bridge. You would then communicate helm orders via sound powered phones.

Also, speed orders could be manually communicated from the lee helm to the throttleman in engineering via sound powered phones.

In the old days, the lee helm was always manned and there would be no “shifting of controls” as occurred in this collision. Instead, if the helmsman was having problems, the Boatswain Mate of the Watch (the supervisor of these watch stations) could step in to provide advice, or, if needed, take over for the less experienced helmsman. In theory, the Boatswain Mate of the Watch was a more experienced helmsman and could be counted on to correct any problem the helmsman had experienced.

However, on these modern cruisers there is an addition order of difficulty. They have made the Navy ships much more like commercial ships that can be steered from various locations. Also, the two jobs of helmsman and lee helmsman can be performed by a single individual. In theory, this can reduce the number of watch standers and perhaps make the steering of the ship easier.

I think the reality is quite different. The computerized controls have reduced the control that a helmsman has and added complexity that can lead to errors. I would like to do a complete human factors review of the system, but I would bet that the steering modes, locations of control, and the controls used to change control locations are not obvious and, thus, contributed to this accident. That is a human factors problem … NOT a training problem.

This is just one specific example of the lack of thorough root cause analysis that I saw in the US Navy report on the collision (that I wrote about yesterday). It shows the need for better US Navy root cause analysis to fix the real system problems.

If you would like to learn a system that includes an expert system to help investigators identify human factors issues, attend one of our 5-Day TapRooT® Advanced Root Cause Analysis Training Courses. See our upcoming public course dates and locations by CLICKING HERE.

Navy Releases Reports on Recent Collisions and Provides Inadequate Information and Corrective Actions

November 2nd, 2017 by

Punish

At the end of the cold war, politicians talked of a “peace dividend.” We could cut back our military funding and staffing.

Similar action was taken by the USSR Government for the Soviet fleet. I watched the Soviet Fleet deteriorate. Ships weren’t maintained. Training was curtailed. What was the second best navy in the world deteriorated. I thought it was good news.

What I didn’t know was that our fleet was deteriorating too.

Fast forward to the most recent pair of collisions involving ships in the 7th Fleet (The USS Fitzgerald and the USS John S McCain). If you read the official report (see the link below) you will see that the Navy Brass blames the collisions on bad people. It’s the ship’s CO’s and sailors that are to blame.

Screen Shot 2017 11 01 at 4 40 39 PMUSNAVYCOLLISIONS.pdf

The blame for the ship’s leadership and crews includes (list shortened and paraphrased from the report above by me):

USS Fizgerald

  • The Officer of the Deck (OOD) and bridge team didn’t follow the Rules of the Road (laws for operating ships at sea).
  • The ship was going too fast.
  • The ship didn’t avoid the collision.
  • Radars weren’t used appropriately.
  • The lookout (singular) and the bridge team was only watching the port side and didn’t see the contacts on the starboard side.
  • The Navigation Department personnel didn’t consider the traffic separation lanes when laying out the proposed track for navigating the ship (and this should have been well known since this ship was leaving their home port).
  • The navigation team did not use the Automated Identification System that provides real time updates on commercial shipping positions.
  • The Bridge team and the Combat Information Center team did not communicate effectively.
  • The OOD did not call the CO when required.
  • Members of the Bridge team did not forcefully notify and correct others (including their seniors) when mistakes were suspected or noted.
  • Radar systems were not operating to full capability and this had become accepted.
  • A previous near-collision had not be adequately investigated and root causes identified by the ship’s crew and leadership.
  • The command leadership did not realize how bad the ship’s performance was.
  • The command leadership allowed a schedule of events which led to fatigue for the crew.
  • The command leadership didn’t assess the risk of fatigue and take mitigating actions.

NewImageFired (reassigned) CO of USS Fitzgerald

USS John S McCain

  • Then training of the helm and lee helm operators was substandard in at least part because some sailors were assigned temporarily too the ship and didn’t have adequate training on the differences in the ships rudder control systems.
  • The aft steering helmsman failed to verify the position of the rudder position on his console and made a bad situation worse.
  • Senior personnel and bridge watch standers on the USS John S McCain seemed to have inadequate knowledge of the steering control system.
  • The ship’s watch standers were not the most qualified team and Sea Detail should have been set sooner by the Commanding Officer.
  • The OOD and Conning Officer had not attended the navigation brief held the previous day that covered the risk of the evolution.
  • Five short blasts were not sounded when a collision was immanent giving the other ship a chance to avoid the collision.
  • The CO ordered an unplanned shift of the propulsion control from one station to another without clear notification of the bridge watch team. This order occurred in a shipping channel with heavy traffic.
  • Senior officers and bridge watch standers did not question the report of loss of steering by the Helmsman or pursue the issue to resolution.

NewImageCO & XO of USS John S McCain that were fired (reassigned).

That’s a significant blame list. Can you spot what is missing?

First, the factors that are listed aren’t root causes or even near-root causes. Rather they are Causal Factors and maybe a few causal categories.

Second, the report doesn’t provide enough information to judge if the list is a complete list of the Causal Factors.

Third, with no real root cause analysis, analysis of Generic Causes is impossible. Perhaps that’s why the is no senior leadership (i.e., the Brass – Admirals) responsibility for the lack of training, lack of readiness, poor material condition, poor root cause analysis, and poor crew coordination. For an idea about Generic Cause Analysis of these collisions and potential corrective actions, see: http://www.taproot.com/archives/59924.

Here is a short recreation of the USS Fitzgerald collision to refresh you memory…

The US Navy did not release the actual accident investigation report (the Command and the Admiralty investigations) because the Chief of Naval Operations, “… determined to retain the legal privilege that exists with the command Admiralty investigations in order to protect the legal interests of the United States of America and the families of those Sailors who perished.” I believe the release of the actual investigation reports has more to do with protecting Navy Admirals and an inadequate training and manning of US Navy ships than protecting the US Government legally.

It seems to me that the US Navy has sunk (no pun intended) to the same low standards that the Soviet Navy let their fleet deteriorate to after the cold war ended. Bad material condition, low readiness, and, perhaps, poor morale. And the US Navy seems to have the same “transparency” that the USSR had during the communist hay day.

But I was even more shocked when I found that these problems (Training, manning, material condition, …) had been noted in a report to senior US Navy leadership back in 2010. That’s right, military commanders had known of these problems across the fleet for seven years and DID NOT take actions to correct them. Instead, they blame the Commanding Officers and ship’s crews for problems that were caused by Navy and political policy. Here is a link to that report:

https://www.scribd.com/document/43245136/Balisle-Report-on-FRP-of-Surface-Force-Readiness

Why didn’t senior leadership fix the problems noted in the report? One can only guess that it didn’t fit their plans for reduced manning, reduced maintenance, and more automated systems. These programs went forward despite evidence of decreased readiness by ships in the fleet. A decreased state of readiness that led two ships to fatal collisions. This cutting of costs was a direct response to budget cuts imposed by politicians. Thus “supporting our troops” is too expensive.

It seems from the reports that the Navy would rather punish Commanding Officers and the ship’s crews rather than fix the fleet’s problems. No accountability is shared by the senior naval leadership that has gone along with budget cuts without a decrease in the operating tempo and commitments.

NewImageChief of Naval Operations who says these types of accidents should “never happen again.”

More blame is NOT what is needed. What is needed is advanced root cause analysis that leads to effective corrective actions. The report released by the Navy (at the start of this article) doesn’t have either effective root cause analysis or effective corrective actions. I fear the unreleased reports are no better.

What can we do? Demand better from our representatives. Our sailors (and other branches as well) deserve the budget and manning needed to accomplish their mission. We can’t change the past but we need to go forward with effective root cause analysis and corrective actions to fix the problems that have caused the decline in mission capabilities.

Interviewing & Evidence Collection Tip: Are you Ready for the Unexpected?

November 2nd, 2017 by

 

No one wants an accident to happen but it’s important to be ready. Here are four things to get into place so you will be:

1. Formal investigation policy. Do you have a policy that sets out the reporting process, goals of investigation and the systematic process an investigator will use to complete the investigation? Has it been updated within the past year?

2. Emergency response. Is your response plan written down? Do you have trained responders who can administer care and who will mitigate additional damages after an accident? Has the list of first responders been evaluated within the past year (people come and go and new people may need to be trained).

3. Accident investigation training. Do all employees know how to report accidents and near-misses? Are all of your investigators trained in the systematic process of investigation set out in your investigation policy?

4. Accident investigation kit. Do you have tools and equipment that aids your investigators gathered together in a grab-and-go kit? This varies from facility to facility, industry to industry. It may be as simple as forms (such as a form to record initial observations of the witnesses) and a disposable camera.

Join me and Reb Brickey on February 26 and 27, 2018 in Knoxville, Tennessee for our TapRooT® Evidence Collection and Interviewing Techniques to Sharpen Investigation Skills to learn more about this topic.

What does a bad day look like?

October 31st, 2017 by

Dramatic footage of accidents involving heavy equipment.

Monday Accidents & Lessons Learned: Cardiac and Vascular Patient Pathways

October 30th, 2017 by

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) was notified by an ambulance service of an incident that occurred in April 2017 relating to safety issues arising from the care of a patient with type A aortic dissection. The notification raised specific concerns relating to cardiac and vascular patient pathways and more generally the transfer of seriously ill patients between hospitals. Click here to read the Interim Bulletin.

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