Monday, March 30, 2015

Change – Safety stagnation

There are sayings in many languages about the difficulty of changing our long established habits and ways of doing things.  In English, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” In French, “Ce n’est pas à un vieux singe qu’ on apprend à faire la grimace.”  (You can’t teach an old monkey how to pull a funny face).  In Spanish, “El loro viejo no aprende a hablar.”  (An old parrot can’t learn to speak).  No matter where we live, there seems to be a significant physical and psychological inertia that inhibits we humans from doing anything other than what we somehow have learned to do since we were raised from childhood.  This leads to another English expression you all have heard, “The classic definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.” 

As safety professionals, if we followed this cultural inevitability malaise we would still be back in the circa 1911 start of our profession re-experiencing the likes of the Triangle Shirt Waist factory multiple fatality tragedy.  The focus of the safety profession must be a continual improvement that relentlessly ekes our way to a safety culture of correct.  We work to eliminate: fatalities, then lost time injuries, then medical incidents, then personal risk evaluation failures, then…..

My Papa used to quote a famous author whose scenario had a mother asking her sons, “What don’t you have to do? You don’t have to solve all the world’s problems.  Just a few, there are plenty to go around.  What do you have to do?  Always do the right thing.”  Let us continue to resist the insanity of safety (and personal) status quo and keep engaging in doing the right things.

The Doc

Monday, March 23, 2015

Fatigue Series - Wrap Up

Wrapping up the FRMS….or not.

Over the last several weeks, we have run a whirlwind tour through the basic framework of a Fatigue Risk Management System.  If you have kept pace week to week, you should be all done.  Just kidding.  But hopefully you have begun to formulate some ideas on getting started or have even taken the first steps into engaging leadership on the concept.  For those of you who may have already done some work on different phases, you may be working on integrating those parts into a more concise system.

As a wrap-up until next time, I will leave you with a few key ideas:

Beware of the silver bullet (especially if you’re a Lycanthrope….Google it for more info).  The silver bullet can come in many different forms but it is usually a good idea at the heart.  Sometimes it is technology.  Sometimes it is a process.  Whatever it is, don’t think that any one fatigue countermeasure eliminates your risk for fatigue and distraction on its own.  More and more, I’m finding that within each layer of protection, more than one countermeasure is needed to optimize the mitigation of fatigue.  And even then, no single layer of protection can stand alone, no matter how comprehensively it is implemented.  As an example, implementing even a wide range of fatigue mitigating technologies will yield lower returns if the culture into which it is implemented is negative. 

Don’t use an axe when you need a scalpel.  Sometimes we believe that if we just blanket our workforce with massive amounts of information, some of it will sink in or at least be received by those who need it.  While in theory this is true, it can also dilute the message.  Take care to craft your communications and target your solutions to those individuals or groups that will benefit most from it. 

Hare vs. Tortoise.   As you begin to implement your FRMS, keep in mind that this is a marathon.  While you will expect to see progress in the short term, sustaining it takes perseverance, integrated systems and dedication.  Also be aware of overwhelming people with new programs, information and systems.  We are still humans (except for those Lycanthropes.  Did you Google it yet?) and need time to ingest and digest new things.  This also means that a regular drip of information is important for long term retention and sustainability.

Check your work.  Again.  I have beat this drum in previous posts and I’m doing it again….you must check your progress.  You have no way of knowing whether the work you are doing is having an impact if you don’t reassess after a countermeasure is implemented.  Even if this check is a cursory review of data or a short survey, you will gain insight into the effectiveness of the work you are doing.  I’d prefer a more in depth analysis, but sometimes this isn’t always possible.   If you have set up your FRMS properly, you should already have identified the metrics for success.

For those of you who did keep pace through all the posts and jumped to work right away and think you’re done, you might want to go back and have a deeper dive….If you have any questions, feel free to drop me an email.

Sleep well,

Todd D.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Fatigue Series - CHECK

Check, please.

At this point in the process, you have put in a significant amount of time and resources into your FRMS and are probably ready to sit back and let it roll.  You may have had some challenges, but I’m sure you have also received immediate positive feedback on many of your countermeasure implementations.  Now comes one of the most often forgotten stages of your FRMS; the continuous improvement “Check” phase.

Do you remember anything particularly annoying about math teachers from your childhood?  Personally, aside from preferences about style and personal characteristics, the one thing I remember that was pounded into me from early on was the phrase “check your work.”  After every math worksheet, the final stage was the “Check” phase.  This served me pretty well all the way through high school, university and today.  Why do I need to check my work?  Of course there is the obvious answer: to make sure I have done it correctly and gotten the correct answer.  A not so obvious reason is because it allows me to also see where I have made mistakes, which is a subtle difference, but an important one.  We can learn from the mistakes and misfires.

In the FRMS, we do the Check to identify whether or not our countermeasures have been effective and to what degree.  This helps us understand and justify the time and effort we put into it.  Once you have done the check, don’t be afraid to share the information.  In fact, I highly recommend you share the information with your entire site.  Communicating this information keeps people interested in the work as well as puts out a reminder that this is not a flash in the pan or flavor of the month.   Rather, it is something that is becoming engrained into the regular operation and culture of the site.

Like our math, we also do the Check in our FRMS to identify where we may have had less than stellar results.  At this point, we re-enter the FRMS wheel to identify why we did not accomplish what we intended and begin to re-assess where we are still having challenges and how we might approach solving them. 

On the topic of timing for your Check phase, you don’t have to wait a certain period of time before conducting your Check.  For one thing, you may have multiple roll outs during your implementation.  If, for example, you conduct some initial training and education on fatigue, you don’t need to wait until you have implemented your other countermeasures before checking the effectiveness of the training.  In fact, you may have multiple Checks for each countermeasure.  Using the training countermeasure as an example, you might conduct an immediate Check following the training to determine perceived value of the program and any immediate feedback.  Then have a 6 month Check to see if the concepts are being used and how you may be able to reinforce them. 

While your Check phase should include a comprehensive analysis and review of operational, HR and other hard data, don’t leave out the subjective information you can gather as well.  The subjective data might assist you in developing countermeasures that have a real and immediate impact for your employees. 

And the FRMS wheel keeps rolling….

Todd D.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Fatigue Series - IMPLEMENT

Let’s Go!  Implement

We have spent a significant amount of time in the FRMS already and some of you may be feeling like we haven’t actually DONE anything yet.  I understand completely.  But I also know from past experience that without a solid, comprehensive and well planned program, we often end up running around putting bandages on things, putting out fires or just plain shutting things down.  With all of our initial work to Engage, Assess, Define and Develop largely done, we now turn our focus on rolling out our layers of protection. 

A key area of the Implementation phase is the communication to all stakeholders.  This includes employees, supervisors, managers and executives.  The content may be different but it is a necessary part of the implementation roll out.  Communication helps set the stage as well as get feedback on potential resistance that may need to be addressed.  This also goes a long way in creating and improving the safety and fatigue management culture.  Be sure to share specific timelines, expectations and outcomes as well as provide avenues for input.  This starts to be very important and helpful for our Check phase which will follow our Implementation.

You will also benefit from these communications as they will form part of the data you use to determine the effectiveness of your countermeasures and possible improvements.  And remember that you will need real and honest input from participants in the countermeasures.  If they feel that they can be honest in their responses and data, you will get the truth about the effectiveness of your layers of protection.

One thing I want to mention here is that as we work through the beginning stages of the FRMS, we may identify some areas where we can have immediate successes in mitigating fatigue.  One example may be related to fatigue technology that was implemented as part of the Assess stage.  There is nothing wrong with keeping these technologies running as we work on the rest of our FRMS.  However, a word of caution: don’t take any successes from this and assume you are done.  If you have conducted a comprehensive Assess phase, you will have identified multiple sources and impacts of fatigue.  These need to be properly worked through as well.  But you can build off potential success from quick hitting implementations throughout the entire FRMS.  As another example, you may identify that you need to provide training specifically for supervisors on managing fatigue in themselves and their reports.  As long as you have gone through the process of identifying the materials, communications, timing, etc., there is no reason to wait until you have completed the Develop phase for the other layers of protection.

So, as you implement, don’t forget to capture the feedback.  I hope and believe you will start to see how you are improving the lives of all involved.

Todd D.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Fatigue Series - DEVELOP

Putting Meat on the Bones: Develop

Once the basic framework of an FRMS is defined and critical focus areas are determined, we can begin to develop the specific countermeasures.  These countermeasures fall into a handful of layers of protection.  The key layers of protection we use within Caterpillar are Culture, Polices & Procedures, Training & Education, Schedules & Rosters, and Technology.  While the FRMS you defined and created prior to the develop phase will likely include all of these areas, the task in the Develop stage is to clearly design the programs and fatigue countermeasures within each of those layers.

For example, your FRMS framework will likely include a section on training and education about fatigue.  But the framework created in Define does not include the methods for delivering the training, such as the content, specific audiences, the roll out and communications and the actual materials, time and resources needed to conduct the training.  In the Develop phase, you will now put the specifics to the framework. 

As you begin developing these countermeasures within each of the layers of protection, don’t forget about the work you did in the Assess phase to define major sources of fatigue and the possible differences among workgroups for different countermeasures.  To continue with the example of fatigue training, during the Develop stage you will need to identify what changes may be required when providing the training for haul truck drivers compared to plant personnel, dispatchers, supervisors, etc.  They may all need a certain core set of information, but a part of the training should focus on the specific challenges individuals have based on their main work function.  It’s not a one size fits all solution.

Similarly, installing technology on haul trucks does essentially nothing for a maintenance technician in terms of reducing their fatigue risk.  In the Develop phase, you will likely identify multiple countermeasures within each layer of protection to ensure that you cover as many as possible.

One layer of protection that crosses over into other layers is that of culture.  This is a layer that often gets overlooked.  You can develop a set of perfectly effective, comprehensive and well planned fatigue countermeasures that can fail miserably if the safety and fatigue culture is poor.  If there is poor communication, misperceptions, distrust, inconsistency and/or lack of support for the fatigue countermeasures, they will not succeed.  Nor will they return the results we want, which is ultimately getting our employees and ourselves Safely home.  Everyone.  Every day.®

As you begin to develop your specific countermeasures and layers of protection, don’t be daunted by the scale.  If you have followed the steps in the FRMS process, you will have a good roadmap.  And don’t be afraid to think outside the box when you develop your countermeasures.  Lastly, don’t build these locked away in a conference room.  You may start there, but you will need to get input and ultimately buy-in from the workforce so rely on your steering teams, managers and employees for ideas that will work in the real world.

Todd D.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Fatigue Series - DEFINE

Define it.

If we have properly Engaged leadership and stakeholders, and gone through a rigorous Assessment, we should have a fairly clear picture of the size and shape of our fatigue problem.  This makes defining our set of solutions a bit simpler.  We no longer have to guess what issues we need to address.

Our primary goal in the Define phase is to create a practical, effective management system. A system that predicts, measures and mitigates fatigue and distraction and provides operators tools and knowledge to improve their alertness.   That’s quite a mouthful so let me break it down another way:  In the Define phase, we are building the framework, structure and guiding principles that will drive the specific countermeasures and layers of protection in the Develop phase.  We are not yet creating the specific countermeasures, programs, interventions and technologies that will be implemented later.  Rather, we are identifying the high level areas that we want to focus on.  For example, we may identify that we want to include some form of training and education on how individuals can manage their fatigue.  But we are not yet determining the method of delivery, scope, materials, etc.  Similarly, we may identify that we want to utilize some form of technology to monitor fatigue but we aren’t yet deciding which technology and how it will be implemented.

Another key component of the Define phase is the definition of our criteria for success.  Here we can again refer back to our assess phase for some help.  Because we have already determined how to measure fatigue and its impact on individuals and our operation, we can use many of these metrics to determine whether we are having a positive outcome following implementation.  It is important and not entirely obvious, that the metrics should provide the correct measurements.  For example, to determine whether our training program has had a positive impact on operator fatigue, number of tons moved may not be the best metric as compared to something like health care costs, absenteeism or turnover.

Be very meticulous about defining your FRMS framework and the measurements of success.  The success metrics in particular are important to show not only your improvements, but also where you may have missed the mark and need to make adjustments.  Remember, an FRMS is a constantly evolving system which means that the framework you develop in the Define stage needs to be flexible and able to incorporate changes.

Until next time, ask around the neighborhood about FRMS.  Benchmarking with other organizations can be a great way to help you define your own FRMS.

 Todd D.

Monday, February 16, 2015

ASSESS - Part II

I received several questions about our last installment regarding the Assess phase.  So I wanted to revisit the topic and try to provide some more information and clarity.

First, the goal of the assess phase is to provide visibility to fatigue, which is often an unseen threat or at best one that people are aware of but has not been quantified or investigated. Before we can move to the next step and define our countermeasures, we need to have a very clear vision of the size and source of our fatigue risk.


How many times have you done an investigation following an incident or read the post incident report and seen a phrase like “the operator of the vehicle indicated he had fallen asleep and doesn't know how he ran into....." called out? Let me take a wild stab at your answer and say that most of us have never had someone tell us they were asleep, tired or distracted and that was the cause of the incident. Usually things like an "equipment malfunction" or a "spotted unicorn ran in front of the truck" or "the road was in bad condition" are claimed to have caused the incident. While equipment malfunctions occur, and even wildlife can cause an incident, it is rarely the main cause. This is not to say that fatigue is always the main cause either. But without getting clarity around it through objective measures, it is then almost impossible for us to define solutions and countermeasures that effectively address the real problem.

Second, this is not a witch hunt.  The goal is not to hunt down fatigue and discipline anyone who is struggling to deal with it on an individual or supervisory level.  We need to have clear reporting of fatigue and fatigue risk and when we begin to discipline immediately, the reports of fatigue stop.  This ultimately leads us back to the beginning where we have no visibility to the problem without much more work.  Again, remember we are simply trying to gain clarity on the size and sources of fatigue in our operation.  This can only be achieved through open discussion and investigation.  In particular, when we use technology to gather this information, the process and role of the technology needs to be clear to all involved. 

This approach of open communication and investigation will provide significant paybacks now as we move into the next step of Define and also later as we get into the Check phase later in our process.

Until next time,

Todd D.

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