The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Safety is no accident - operating forklifts

Graham Marshall - Sunday, May 29, 2011
Over the next few days I'm posting links to some provocative OSHA safety adverts.

They make the good point that accidents don't just happen.

In any workplace, there are always hazards and associated triggering mechanisms that need to be properly identified and controlled.

Click here to see the second advert in the series.

To manage hazards and triggers at your work place, always use Think 6, Look 6.

Problems With Advanced Driver Training

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, May 17, 2011

We are all witnesses to a global tragedy.

Reliable estimates suggest that around 1.2 million people die each year in road traffic crashes around the Globe.

In the USA and Australia, road traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for people aged one to 34 years.

On top of the fatalities, another 50 Million more people are injured or disabled in road accidents.

The economic cost of these accidents is enormous.

The global cost is estimated to be US $518 billion per year.

While the cost of road accidents to global society is huge, the economic, emotional and social costs of fatalities in the oil and gas sector are also large.

What is tragic about the road toll and specifically for the impact within our industry is the reality that so much of this suffering is easily preventable.

So, why has a zero fatality rate failed to materialize despite the desire of society as a whole for this to happen, and the clear expectation for achievement of this goal within the oil majors?

More importantly, how can we prevent road accidents so that recorded fatalities fall to zero?

Dealing with the first question: it is unfair to suggest that progress in preventing road accidents has not occurred.

In the 30 years since 1971, road fatalities have declined by 50 per cent in Canada, 46 percent in Britain, 48 percent in Australia and 16 per cent in the United States.

These reductions have occurred despite an increased number of vehicles, drivers, kilometers traveled, and population.

The general reduction in fatalities that is seen at the level of societies has been mirrored by reductions in fatalities in the oil industry.

The improved situation has occurred for several reasons. These include:

  • Improved standards for engineered roads and the materials used in road construction;
  • Improvements in the technical design of vehicles and safety-related equipment installed in vehicles;
  • Improvements in emergency response capability to accidents, and improved emergency trauma care;
  • Increased surveillance of driving offences and enforcement of the law by authorities;
  • Improved technology for monitoring traffic movement; and
  • Increased spending on road-safety awareness campaigns.


Yet statistics also show that improvements in recorded fatalities have largely stalled; both in society at large and in the oil industry.

Quite simply, enforcement of the law, traffic surveillance, design and engineering of the roads, improved vehicle equipment, and improved trauma care have reached the thresholds of their applicable benefits to reducing road accidents.

Improvements stemming from future developments in these areas are now likely to be both smaller than in the past, and occurring at greater financial cost than has previously been the case.

In effect, the cost to benefit ratio of improvements in the engineering, technical, health and law enforcement sectors will be smaller than we have previously seen.

One area that remains under-exploited in the drive for zero fatalities and with the potential for significant improvement is the “human factor” relating to safe and unsafe behavior and competency.

In simple terms, the human factor addresses the person-relevant variables that the driver brings to the driving situation.

These variables include such psychologically-derived elements as values, attitudes, beliefs, knowledge, capability, disposition, age, gender and state of mind; as well as observable behavior.

Unfortunately, however; the exploitation by the oil industry of the potential benefits of human factors in reducing fatalities to zero has been undermined by a too-narrow focus and the use of an ill-conceived model of competency.

In particular, I suggest that the narrow focus of effort has been on developing a single competency element that I characterize as driver “skill” in the technical aspects of operating a vehicle.

The assumption seems to be that developing the competency termed “skill” within drivers will assist them to drive safely, and hence, eliminate accidents.

But is that assumption correct?

Working with Explosives

Graham Marshall - Monday, April 25, 2011
Working with explosives can be a high-risk activity if all reasonable precautions are not fully established and actively implemented. 

Below is a series of photographs showing what can happen when explosives are inappropriately handled.

Situational Awareness

Graham Marshall - Saturday, April 16, 2011
On Thursday, I blogged about Situational Awareness (SA). 

I defined SA in the earlier post and today I'm going to describe the different levels of SA that we experience.

This is an important topic because your level of SA can have major implications for the way you manage the hazards in your work place.

Levels of Situational Awareness

People typically operate on five distinct levels of awareness.

Level One SA

The lowest level of awareness can be classified as being unaware or unconscious.  In a nutshell, there is no SA going on.  Just watch your teenager's for a couple of minutes and you'll get the idea!

The unconscious level is where your brain ceases to process information and you simply cannot react to the reality of the situation.

For all practical purposes, you're unconscious when you're asleep or in a drunken or drugged state in which you are unable to respond appropriately to dangerous situations (e.g., if your house is on fire). 

At the other end of the scale, you may also be in a unconscious state if you are "frozen" due to a panic reaction.

There are other paralysis-inducing hazards which make it impossible to maintain or act on situational awareness.
A bite from a blue-ring octopus or cone-shell sting can induce this level of unconscious paralysis.

Level Two SA
The second level of SA is being tuned out.

Tuning-out may occur when you drive a car along a familiar route.  Have you ever experienced the feeling of arriving somewhere but then realized you can't really remember how you got there?  That's being tuned out. 

It can occur when you're distracted by intrusive thoughts; when daydreaming; or when you're focussed intently on a very narrow range of internal (body) or external stimuli which are largely unrelated to the hazards in the environment around you.

For example, tuning-out  occurs when you're deeply engrossed in reading a book on the beach and fail to notice  when the tide comes in.

Talking on your mobile phone or texting may also lead car drivers to tune-out when moving along the road. 

In that case, your narrow focus becomes the digital phone screen rather than the wider World outside the windshield.

Level Three SA

The third level of SA is relaxed attentiveness.

This is a state in which you are relaxed but you are also paying attention to the environment and scanning for hazards and triggers. 

This level of SA is where you're using Think 6, Look 6 as your mental paradigm and thought process.  It's the "sweet-spot" of SA and where you should aim to be whenever you're actively managing hazards.  

Driving a vehicle on the road using "defensive driving skills" would be a example of relaxed attentiveness.

It involves "reading the road"; looking well ahead; anticipating the actions and reactions of other road users; and maintaining focus in the presence of distractions (e.g., ignoring the mobile phone if it rings).

Level Four SA
The fourth level of SA is commonly called focused attention.  Like "relaxed-attention", this level of consciousness also involves the use of the Think 6, Look 6 hazard management process.

This level of SA occurs when you focus your whole attention on a perceived hazard in the environment around you. 

For example, people with a spider phobia will tend to focus their attention on a spider if they spot one.  

You demonstrate focused awareness when you are driving a car in difficult conditions and you're focusing on the dangerous aspects in the environment. 

It might be a focus on an icy  road surface; or roads with potholes; or an erratic driver you notice up ahead of you.

In these circumstances, the level of attention required makes SA extremely stressful and very tiring.

Dangerous situations requiring prolonged focused attention will rapidly exhaust your mental capacity.

A problem with focused attending can also occur if your range of focus becomes so narrow that you begin to miss other important information about alternative hazards and triggers in the environment.

An example of the above occurs in aircraft cockpits when pilots begin to focus all of their attention onto a faulty gauge and then fail to fly the aircraft!  In that case, the range of external stimuli (the flickering warning gauge) being attended too becomes too narrow for overall safety outcomes (no focus on air speed, altitude, weather factors, trim of the plane, etc.).

Level Five SA
The fifth level of SA is high alert.

This alertness level introduces a rapid physiological response - it's our in-bred "fight or flight" reaction.

There’s an object falling from a scaffolding tower - quick - run away!

The car you are watching doesn’t stop at the traffic light - quick - hit the brakes!

The plane you're flying is about to fly into the ground - quick - pull up!

Being on high alert is uncomfortable and exhausting but at this level you are still able to function.

You can run, you can use the brakes to try to stop your vehicle, you can go to maximum power!

In fact, the adrenalin rush you get with the "fight or flight" response will maximize your physiological response to the danger.

In summary, SA is important for management of hazards that we face everyday.  Using Think 6, Look 6 as your mental paradigm and thought process is the best way to maintain an adequate focus on the hazards that may hurt you.  

Danger of Carrying Petrol

Graham Marshall - Friday, April 15, 2011
The dangers surrounding the carriage of petrol in temporary containers within the passenger compartment of a vehicle were starkly highlighted to Sonia Jones of Meekatharra (WA).

Ms Jones was driving a vehicle with two "Jerry" cans of petrol on the back seat. 

When she lit a cigarette, the petrol vapour exploded causing terrible burns to much of her body.

More details about this incident can be found by clicking here.

Managing Road Transportation Risk

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, January 25, 2011
Road transportation activities are one of the highest risk areas requiring active management by organizations working in energy, mining and utilities (EMU).

Featured below is an article which may be of interest about the risk management program I developed for Shell's Sakhalin Energy Project in Russia.

Avoid use of mobile phone when driving

Graham Marshall - Sunday, January 23, 2011

A recent driver safety study by National Public Services Research Institute found that the average stopping distance for a car being driven at 65 mph (105 kph) was around 146 meters (480 feet).

When drivers were then instructed to dial a telephone number using a mobile phone, the average stopping distance increased by by almost 40 meters to 185 meters (608 feet).

So today's simple "one per-center" is to make sure you avoid distractions when driving and NOT use your mobile phone.

Safe operation of vehicles

Graham Marshall - Saturday, January 15, 2011
Today's "one per-center" is about as easy as it gets:
  • Wash and clean the windows of your vehicle in order to have excellent visibility when driving.


Safety Maintenance for Vehicles

Graham Marshall - Friday, January 14, 2011
Another "one-percenter" today is to inspect the maintenance records of vehicles being operated from your location.

Make sure that all vehicles are being serviced to at least the manufacturers recommended schedule.

If you find vehicles in an improper state of mechanical operation, book them in for an inspection and service.

Just another easy to achieve "one per-center".

Defensive driving as a "one per-center"

Graham Marshall - Thursday, January 13, 2011
Driving defensively is probably one of the easiest to achieve "one per-center's" available to road users  and will probably have the biggest risk reduction potential in most commuters daily lives.

That's because the drive too and from work each day is often the biggest risk exposure in many people's lives.

Minimize the risk when driving is so easy using the following "one per-center's":

  • Read the road in order to think and plan ahead;
  • Pay extra attention when approaching intersections;
  • Keep your distance from the vehicle in front;
  • Be prepared to stop;
  • Adapt your driving to the road and weather conditions;
  • Ensure all passengers are wearing seat belts;
  • Avoid all distractions (e.g., mobile phone); and
  • Plan to expect the unexpected.


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