Nuclear and Oil Industry Safety
The disasters in the Gulf of Mexico, San Bruno and Fukushima demand that we question the effectiveness of established models to prevent recurrence. Carrillo and Associates finds and implements leading edge approaches to address the human factors that can contribute to unfortunate outcomes. Such is the case with our leadership and communications training for safety, which is based on the research and principles described below.
Ten years after the Institute of Medicine’s “To Err is Human” report concluded medical errors are mostly the fault of systems rather than individuals the healthcare industry is using scientific methods to determine why those systems continue to allow preventable medical errors to happen. What they are finding is although improvements in methods and technologies can be useful tools, the most important factors in improving patient safety remain the human ones — leadership, communication, teamwork, and staff empowerment. Many of the advances in healthcare safety are based on scientific discoveries in complexity, neuroscience and relational psychology, which also apply to how we manage safety and environment performance.
What can the nuclear and Oil Industry learn from this research? The application of this research paints a new reality for managers. They cannot be expected to produce results solely through planning and control. Instead, they face the challenge of how to manage the outcomes of the choices made by the many human beings under their direction influenced constantly by conversational interactions and power relationships. Change and events emerge unpredictably, rather than as a result of any overall plan because people make choices according to their own sense of what is right. This is a radically different picture from the one painted by most of the management literature where change is controlled by the plans and choices of a few powerful executives within an organization.
New ways of thinking and problem solving are called for to function successfully in this new reality. Static policies, rules, procedures and periodic audits (no matter how thorough) will not keep up with the reality of a constantly changing environment. They can be more effective in more stable environments where predictability is high, but they decline in effectiveness as the complexity, unpredictability, and hazard indexes rise.
Three action principles stand out for leaders. They each suggest management tools that leverage adaptability and open communication channels to deal with a constantly changing and unpredictable environment. The three principles are:
- Repeated communication
- Perpetual assessment
- Continual reinforcement