February 24, 2020 | Susan Napier-Sewell

Hurrying Is an At-Risk Behavior and an Error Precursor

Hurrying through a task is an error precursor and an example of at-risk behavior

When should you compromise safety? Of course, the only correct answer is, resoundingly, never. Yet, we encounter many compromises of safety in the workplace every day: shortcuts, error-prevention violations, or well-intended actions in the effort to improve performance efficiency. 

It’s easy to become distracted on the job—whether you’re performing rote job functions or something outside normal operating functions—perhaps, especially for less familiar tasks.

What should you do when distraction occurs and/or you feel you need to hurry?

Conduct self-checking. Self-checking is another component of work that helps a performing individual focus attention on the appropriate component or activity and helps to ensure that each evolution of work is completed safely. When used rigorously, self-checking boosts attention and thinking just before a physical action is performed.

All workers, subcontractors included, need to be aware of (1) their surroundings before they start to do actions that are not typically performed at the local or point of an evolution and (2) rushing errors can occur; in this case, when they feel someone, or something is waiting on them.

A case in point: hurrying leads to undesired consequences

On November 6th, 2019, a subcontractor concrete truck driver was waiting at a security gate for an escort. While waiting on the unsecured side of the gate, the driver was trying to make good use of time by performing checks on the truck. During the checks, the hopper was raised on the truck to wash down the drum fins. Upon completion of this evolution, the driver forgot to lower the hopper and proceeded to drive into the security trap. The raised hopper contacted and damaged the overhead door. No injury occurred; however, the door was damaged, and repairs were needed.

Where did the driver’s good intentions go wrong? 

The driver was required to wait for the escort; therefore, he wanted to save time by conducting an evolution that is typically performed on the construction site. When the escort arrived, the driver hurried to get into the concrete truck and proceeded through the required security checkpoint. Performing work out of normal sequence and hurrying to get to the construction site contributed to the hopper being left in the upright position and subsequent damage to the overhead door.

How can we stop at-risk behavior? 

The ideal behavior is, think before acting. Since we’re human, the questions still exist:

  • How do we avoid at-risk behaviors?
  • How do we think before taking a shortcut or violate expectations of error prevention?
  • How do we resist the impulse to perform simple actions intended to improve efficient performance of a task, usually at some expense of safety?

When performing tasks outside of normal operating conditions and/or when distracted, it is extremely important to conduct self-checking. Self-checking is another component of work that helps a performing individual focus attention on the appropriate component or activity and helps to ensure that each evolution of work is completed safely.

When used rigorously, self-checking boosts attention and thinking just before a physical action is performed

All workers, subcontractors included, need to be aware of (1) their surroundings before they start to do actions that are not typically performed at the local or point of an evolution and (2) rushing errors can occur; in this case, when they feel someone, or something is waiting on them.

Source and photo credit: OPEXShare, Department of Energy, Operating Experience, Lessons Learned, Best Practices, Idaho National Laboratory Operating Experience Program.

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Categories
Accidents, Human Performance, Safety
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