March 1, 2010 | Mark Paradies

Monday Accident & Lessons Learned: Chief Dies After Electrical “Accident” on the Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan

The Associated Press reported that Chief Electrician’s Mate John G. Conyers suffered a severe electrical shock and was later pronounced dead at Sharp Coronado Hospital.

The AP reported that the Chief was conducting “routine work” when he was killed.

Normally, Chiefs are supervising, not performing, work. And there is nothing “routine” about working with electricity aboard a ship. Complacency (routine) with electricity on a ship is a deadly combination.

One of my early shipboard jobs in the Navy was being the Electrical Division Officer aboard USS Arkansas (a nuclear powered cruiser). One of the first “performance improvement” programs I ever attempted was to re-instill respect for electricity and get 100% compliance with our lock-out/tag-out program to isolate and check dead all sources of voltage during electrical maintenance work.

People who work with any hazard (for example, electricity), tend to become complacent over time. I’m not sure if this happened on the USS Ronald Reagan, but it certainly is a problem that every manager/supervisor who supervises people who work with a hazard has to confront head-on.

Also, supervisors can frequently be tempted to do work and even take shortcuts to get a job done. This takes them out of their roll to supervise a job and make sure it is done safely and puts them into a dangerous situation where no one is looking over their shoulder to make sure the job is done safely. Once again, I have no evidence that this happened aboard the USS Ronald Reagan, but I’ll be interested in what the eventual accident report has to say.

What can we learn from this fatality BEFORE the investigation is even completed?

First, TapRooT® Users would be getting a complete picture of WHAT happened before they started analyzing WHY it happened. As you can see from my background, there are several problems that I would automatically look for. But, TapRooT® requires the investigator to look at the evidence first before starting the root cause analysis. They have to have a good, complete, accurate, detailed SnapCharT® before they identify the accident’s Causal Factors and find each Causal Factor’s root causes.

Second, TapRooT® Users have a systematic root cause analysis technique, called the Root Cause Tree®, that helps them be sure to check for the many different potential root causes of a problem (Causal Factor). The tree helps guide them to areas they may not have thought of to investigate before. It helps the investigator get beyond blame to find real, fixable root causes that, when fixed, can prevent future accidents.

Third, once the root causes are identified, TapRooT® has a module called the Corrective Action Helper® that helps the investigator develop effective corrective actions. This helps the investigator and management develop corrective actions that might be “outside the box” as far as their experience with corrective actions is concerned.

If you are a TapRooT® User, you have already learned these lessons (but it is good to have them reinforced).

If you are NOT a TapRooT® User, get to a TapRooT® Course NOW! Investigating smaller accidents, incidents, and near misses, as well as using the TapRooT® techniques proactively, can help you avoid major accidents and keep your employees safe.

For more TapRooT® information, including success stories from TapRooT® users, see:

And for more information about TapRooT® Courses, see:

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