Recently, a young college student from Minnesota was killed in Mississippi by a tire that came off a trailer as it was running down the road. A group of students had stopped off at a rest area for a short break when the accident happened. An investigation revealed that a 3’ lock washer designed to keep tires secured was missing form the trailer. A missing $3.00 part caused someone their life.
Who was responsible? Who took a short cut? Was it the tire shop? Was it a technician? How about the driver? You see, if you have not thoroughly inspected your equipment prior to driving, you are simply gambling with your life and the lives of others.
Taking shortcuts is a constant downward spiral. One never knows how it will end and the possible consequences of ones attempts at saving time. Checklist are an essential part of many industries. As humans, we can forget things, particularly if we are interrupted. To this day, I still remember the 15 steps for items that I would check when hooking up a set of doubles. If I did not reach 15, I would start all over again. The hookup was always checked a second time and checked again every time I got out of the truck our every 150 miles.
The Downward Spiral
The Lack of Negative Results or Consequences Makes Deviation Normal
Shortcuts are in conflict with our normal learning system. Usually, when an action is taken, there are instant consequences. For example, you touch a hot stove and burn your hand. Because of the instant consequences, we learn not to touch the hot stove. The instant consequence taught us a lesson.
The challenge with short cuts is that they violate this learning system. You take a shortcut and nothing happens, no instant consequence. This simply reinforces the negative behavior. We fool ourselves by thinking the shortcut is safe.
We’ve always done it that way (Shortcuts become the norm)
When veteran employees take shortcuts, new employees either copy or are taught the same behavior. When asked “is that safe” the response is often “we have always done it that way”. Just because it does not have an instant negative impact, does not mean that ultimately, there is a price to be paid. This was very evident this past winter regarding trailer drops. Each time that a trailer was dropped, my investigation revealed that the driver did not use the proper method endorsed by the company. Instead, it was done “the way that I always do it. “
Lucky? Maybe not
It would be far better for us if each time we failed to use a proper safety procedure, that something bad would happen. We would then make every effort to avoid the negative consequence. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen that way.
Procedures are in place for a reason. Usually it is because others have had a negative consequence, so we have learned from them. The more we follow the proper procedure, the more engrained in our mind and routine the procedure becomes. With time, ignoring the proper procedure, would violate our very conscious.
Remember: We don’t practice a routine so things are done right. Rather, we practice a routine so we can’t do things wrong.
By Frank Molodecki, CDS