What could possibly go wrong?

Consider all the possibilities when you start a task. Image courtesy of lilesnet

When most people start a new task, they tend to assume that things will go right. It is natural be optimistic and focus only on how things will get done rather than think about what could go wrong. You consider the task and develop a set of actions that will drive you to the goal.

Unfortunately, life is seldom this simple. Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Although the “law” isn’t a hard and fast rule of nature, it’s good to keep in mind. If you don’t think about what could go wrong before you start a task, you risk discovering the weaknesses along the way — and often too late. This is often a major source of accidents, delays, increased costs and compromised quality. Take five and consider the following to identify potential problems:

  • Deficiencies: Do you have all the necessary materials, equipment, training, experience, knowledge and information?
  • Control: Are you dependent on someone else to provide something?
  • Concurrence: Are there areas in which key players disagree?
  • Time: Is there enough to do the job well enough?

Fermilab policy requires a pre-work review for all activities carried out by Fermilab employees (FESHM 2060) or service subcontractors (FESHM 7020). Its purpose is to identify the associated ESH&Q hazards and specify the controls needed to minimize the probability of an accident. A written hazard analysis may be required in some cases, such as for complex jobs, unfamiliar hazards, high hazards or participation by multiple organizations. In addition, a written hazard analysis is required for all construction work, regardless of who performs the work (FESHM 7010).

Fermilab has begun an initiative to deploy a human performance improvement program as part of our efforts to improve efficiency, productivity and ESH&Q. HPI is a powerful tool that helps us step back, look at the big picture and make fundamental improvements in processes — both physical and mental. Our main effort is to employ these ideas in hazard identification and mitigation, incident assessments and procedures.

We have integrated HPI into FESHM 3020, which is on incident investigation and analysis, to investigate injuries and near misses. We encourage people to use HPI to look at their daily work and, certainly when something goes wrong, to to improve the process. An HPI database has been developed to standardize the HPI investigation process and to better identify incidents’ root causes and their corrective and preventive actions.

J.B. Dawson