We all make mistakes

In Health and Safety, October 20193 MinutesBy Tracey MurphyNovember 11, 2019

We all make mistakes. They can be insignificant – leaving a form in the van so the job can‘t be invoiced quickly, or huge – running over a person with the forklift. The job of business owners and managers is to have systems in place to capture these mistakes so that they don‘t have a negative outcome. Workers don‘t intentionally make mistakes. Often, they happen because it is the easiest way to do the job. Sometimes it is a lack of knowledge or too much complacency.

Consider the following situations:

1) A mechanic is working under a truck. He asks the truck driver to start the truck. The driver does so from outside the cab. The truck is in gear and runs over the mechanic, seriously injuring him.
2) A worker wants to drive a forklift through the place a truck is parked. He starts the truck to move it and a mechanic jumps out from under it.

What mistakes were made that caused these incidents?
• The truck is in gear. Sometimes it is necessary to take the handbrake off when working on a vehicle. It is likely to be left in gear so it won‘t move.
• The truck is started from outside the cab. The truck driver would have seen that the truck was in gear if he had been in the cab.
• The mechanic is under the truck when it is started in both situations. In the second scenario the forklift operator doesn‘t know he is there.
• The forklift operator is distracted by his task and doesn‘t think about why the truck is there.

What could have been done to prevent the injury? The obvious things are: Remove the keys from the truck, putting them in a secure place or even the mechanic‘s pocket; one could put a ‘do not use‘ tag on the keys if they are in the ignition; always starting a vehicle from the driver‘s seat; making sure that there is no one under or behind the vehicle when it is started.

Each of these precautions creates a system to arrest the mistakes people make. The best is to ensure that no one is under the vehicle. The other options still have space to fail, and using two or more of these reduces the fail space where mistakes matter. People will take the path of least resistance. This needs to be acknowledged, the paths must be recognised, and workers must be protected by the systems that have been put in place.