Over 80% of all workplace injury arises from worker behavior. We make mistakes, errors in judgment or
simply do not have our full attention on the job and something happens. There is also a tendency to get so
focused on getting the job done that we do not recognize the obvious.
A few years ago in the main shops there was an incident where a fairly new worker fell into a hole in the floor
and required several stitches in his leg. The opening was well flagged off and the whole affair seemed a
mystery. The post incident interview went something like this: So, you saw the caution tape? "Yes". And you
do understand what caution tape means? "Oh, yes." And you stepped over the caution tape and fell into the
hole? "Yes, that is pretty much what happened." Either this guy was a complete moron or there was some
On further questioning, it turned out that he was on the end of a tag line at the time. He was so focused on
keeping the plate steady that the consequences of stepping over the caution tape did not register. At first
this seemed unbelievable. However, some recent research on workplace injury confirmed that focused
concentration on a task reduces the capacity to recognize obvious hazards. And a significant number of
workplace injuries result from this kind of inattention.
This applies directly to vehicle operation such as forklifts or even pickup trucks. There is a felt sense of
pressure to get something done, we are driving totally wrapped up in the job and do not even seen the
person walking in the path of travel. Every year there are countless incidents like this.
Are there pressures and intense focus in our jobs? You bet. But it is how we deal with the pressure, how we
handle the intense focus that is important. Now and again we have talked about the four second reset as a
way of attuning ourselves to the hazards around us. Sometimes all it takes is a big breath when we sit
behind the wheel of a vehicle. In truth, it is some conscious act of getting outside of the pressure or job
focus that prevents this type of incident. How we do this is our individual preference or way of psychologically
handling the job demands here.
There is an old story about a man who is riding a very fast horse. As he gallops past a bystander the person
shouts, "Where are you going in such a hurry?" The man answers, "I don't know. Ask the horse." The very
same situation happens with many of us at work. We get caught up in the busy day. Direct the horse once in
a while and you won't ride over one of your co-workers or fall into a hole.
PRE-TASK PLANNING BASICS:
Pre-task Planning (STA) is a great way to focus your team. The STA is a living document that helps everyone
to focus on their tasks for the day. Here are a few things to keep in mind when using this tool:
- Everyone has input
- Done in your work area by individual crews
- Identify your task for the day
- Identify what hazards you see with those hazards no matter how trivial they may seem
- Identify other trades working around you and ask the question “Can I safely work around them?”
- Identify how to abate the hazards you identified by asking yourself “Do I have the right training,
equipment and or material?”
- If you job task changes then start over with the STA and ask yourself these simple questions
The piece of paper you are writing the information down on will not save your life, but the focus you are
placing on your work will. We never know what we have prevented only what we didn’t prevent.