Between your current level of safety performance and excellent safety performance there is a gap. If you are going to reach excellence, you must bridge that gap. Before you can bridge it, you must identify the basic elements that create it.
When I was in charge of training at a large corporation, I regularly had top executives ask me to design training to address a problem they had identified. Often, training was not the right tool to fix their problem, and as I helped them develop other strategies to address problems, they started to more accurately identify problems and solutions. Training slowly ceased to be the fix-all that was automatically used for every issue.
W. Edwards Deming said that if you can’t describe what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you are doing. Organizational leaders are generally good at describing manufacturing, production and delivery of service as a process. They are often less astute in describing human performance as a process. I too often still hear leaders say things like, “If workers would just pay attention,” or “If people would just think before they act,” or “If we could just get rid of these stupid mistakes, we would be better.” Such statements are the catchphrases of those who do not see human performance as a process. In a process, defects have specific causes which must be addressed to solve the problem. Below are some of the common elements of human performance that may contribute to suboptimal performance.
If workstations and workflow are not designed to facilitate the tasks and allow for good ergonomics, this should be addressed first. Physical barriers to performance can seldom be overcome with behavioral approaches. Awkward or dangerous working conditions can and will cause performance problems and must be addressed by improving conditions. Sending workers back for training will not correct conditional barriers. The safety hierarchy of controls can help decide how to address conditional issues if you truly start from the top and don’t regularly rely on administrative or PPE controls.
Sometimes workers do not perform well because they lack the knowledge of what excellence is and/or how it is achieved. Leaders cannot simply ask workers if they know how to do their jobs well because workers don’t know what they don’t know. Job knowledge should be the main curriculum in training, and supervisors should be trained to look for both excellent and substandard performance.
Safety performance is dependent on two other types of knowledge. We call the first hazard recognition. Workers who do not know what can hurt them on the job and how injuries can happen are working blindly. The second kind of knowledge involves precautions to address the hazards. In other words, workers need to know what can hurt them and how to keep that from happening. If your poor performance is due wholly or in part from a lack of knowledge, training can be all or part of your answer.
A worker can know how to do a job but lack the skill to do it. Some skills can be taught but others require special talents to perform well. If you have a skill deficit that is causing poor performance, you should improve your selection process and explore how you could transfer workers without the skill to do their jobs to other jobs in the organization. If workers have the basic skills to do the job but the skills are not well developed, then further training and coaching may be the answer.Source: EHS Today