What could possibly go wrong?

Review your tasks before you start them. This will reduce the likelihood of accidents, delays and increased costs.

When most people begin a new activity, they tend to hope that things will go right. While optimism may be a great approach to life, it can get in the way of looking at a situation with a critical and objective eye. Although we try to develop a straightforward set of tasks to accomplish a project, if we don’t think about what could go wrong, we are more likely to experience accidents, delays, increased costs and decreased quality.

Lab policy requires a pre-work review for all activities carried out by Fermilab employees (FESHM 2060) or service subcontractors (FESHM 7010 and FESHM 7020). The purpose is to identify hazards and specify the controls needed to minimize the likelihood of an accident. In some cases, a written hazard analysis may be required, such as when the jobs are complex, hazards are great or unfamiliar, or the actions of multiple organizations must be coordinated.

Here are some questions you should ask to avoid “hidden” hazards.

  • Deficiencies: Do we have the necessary materials, equipment, training, experience and knowledge?
  • Control: Are we dependent on someone else to provide something?
  • Concurrence: Are the key players in agreement?
  • Time: Is there enough time to do the job properly?

By finding what actions work best to get a task done and then making those actions the norm, we create a set of standard practices that allows us to get expected results for many of our daily activities at home and at work.

An example of a set of standard practices is that for traffic safety, detailed in FESHM 10160: rules for the use of the road. By adhering to these practices, we can get the desired result of safely arriving at our destination. When these practices are not followed, the results may be a ticket or worse.

The Integrated Quality Assurance manual encourages written procedures to ensure quality for activities of sufficient complexity or potential hazard. We document reviews, assessments and audits in iTrack and conduct self-assessments. The more critical the task is to a job, the greater the need to create explicit standard practices and follow them.

When starting a new task, make sure you’re in the right position to complete the mission by checking to see if your department or division has a set of standard practices for that task that you should follow.

It is in all of our best interests to follow standard practices or make suggestions for how those practices may be improved to get more consistent results. If you have questions or ideas for improvements, contact your supervisor or quality assurance representative.

J.B. Dawson