Working Safely – By Using Consequential Thinking

Job planning is key to ensuring a productive, safe and efficient task. Decisions that people make are usually a causal factor when things go awry.  Some organizations have formalized some sort of job planning and consequential thinking process for employees. Because job conditions can and do change and unforeseen elements may pose a risk, continual re-assessment of a job or task is of critical importance.

Employees who feel hurried to complete a task may make hasty decisions that can (and do) result in injury, damage to property and more. Be sure that your organization’s culture places a strong demand on job planning.  Implement administrative controls such as process and equipment training (see our earlier post on Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) for more information). Add to that checklists and narrative forms that require the employee(s) to consider job and tasks variables such as weather, lighting, placement of tools and equipment, process hazards and proximity to other process, equipment and personnel. See also information on an Energy Control Program (usually called Lock-out Tag-out).

Employees and their supervisors need to plan for contingencies and actively employ consequential thinking as they work. Ask yourself what may change that could disrupt predicted job outcome. It may be a weather variable – for example rain that makes surfaces slick. Or it might me tool or equipment malfunction and what harm may come as a result. Consider the employee using a box end wrench trying to break loose a frozen bolt. What happens if the bolt suddenly comes free or the wrench snaps? Would the employee be caught off balance and all and possibly become impaled on nearby equipment? These are just a couple of examples of the process of consequential thinking. That is important is to plan ahead for those otherwise unexpected events.

We are often asked to investigate and remedy workplace exposures. Usually, the safety culture kicks in only after some sort of incident occurs – involving people and/or property. Far too often, we note that appropriate planning is lacking and sometimes too adequate instruction and/or equipment. By now, probably most of you have seen the internet photos of people working unsafely – such as the fellow changing a light bulb on a metal ladder while atop a swimming pool full of water.  We if he lived to tell about it, then he was lucky. But workplace exposures too often result in less fortunate outcomes.

Be sure that your employees have proper training, tools and equipment to conduct work safely and that company culture supports working safely.

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