Tag Archives: performance variability

The varieties of human work

Understanding and improving human work is relevant to most people in the world, and a number of professions are dedicated to improving human work (e.g. human factors/ergonomics, quality management, industrial/work/organizational psychology; management science). The trouble with many of these professions is that the language and methods mystify rather than demystify. Work becomes something incomprehensible and hard to think about and improve by those who actually design and do the work.  Recently, some notions that help to demystify work have gained popular acceptance. One of these … Continue Reading ››

Bad Seamanship: Is that so?

pexels-photo-largePicture the scene: The car carrier Hoegh Osaka has just departed from the port of Southampton, at which point the master calls up the mate and says that the ship did “not feel right”, to which the mate in charge at the loading computer replies “I am working on it”. Soon afterwards the vessel runs aground and eventually capsizes, leading to a catastrophic accident off the port approaches. The investigation into the case finds that the vessel was … Continue Reading ››

Light bulbs, red lines and rotten onions

switchesIn January 2015, the pure car and truck carrier (PCTC) Hoegh Osaka developed a severe list on departing from Southampton, and was left stranded outside the port for more than 19 days. The official investigation revealed how decision making became the victim of production pressures. The vessel sailed from port without determining accurately the stability conditions upon completion of cargo. It was a routine practice to leave this task to be … Continue Reading ››

Danger was the safest thing in the world if you went about it right

Stunt pilotThis seemingly paradoxical statement was penned by Annie Dillard. She isn’t a safety professional nor a line manager steeped in safety experiences. Annie is a writer who in her book The Writing Life became fascinated by a stunt pilot, Dave Rahm. "The air show announcer hushed. He had been squawking all day, and now he quit. The crowd stilled. Even the children watched dumbstruck as the slow, black biplane buzzed its way around the air. Rahm made … Continue Reading ››

If it ain’t broke, fix it anyway

Ring Spanners-Can you tell me about a situation when work is difficult around here? The group of construction workers at first seemed startled by the question, but clearly interested in engaging. Somewhat hesitantly one of them disclosed that they had problems with the availability of tools on site. It wasn’t perhaps that work was difficult to perform, but it was frustrating to spend ‘hours every day’ looking for tools. Some of the other participants joined in and explained … Continue Reading ››

Systems Thinking for Safety: Ten Principles (A White Paper)

10principlesIn September, a EUROCONTROL Network Manager White Paper was released, entitled Systems Thinking for Safety: Ten Principles. The White Paper was a collaboration of EUROCONTROL, DFS, nine other air navigation service providers and three pilot and controller associations. The purpose is to encourage a systems thinking approach among all system stakeholders to help make sense of – and improve – system performance. The Executive Summary of the … Continue Reading ››

The use and abuse of ‘human error’

"Oh my God. I told those guys at safety that it was dangerous and one day we would lose concentration and pay for it. I already told those guys at safety that it was very dangerous! We are human and this can happen to us. This curve is inhuman!" These are the distressed words of the injured train driver moments after the train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain on 25 July 2013. The driver can be heard pleading in sorrow, hoping for the safety … Continue Reading ››