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Engage the Uns

Posted by Beth Lay, Director of Safety and Human Performance on Sep 19, 2019 11:46:51 AM

Human Performance Uncertainty

We’ve been trained for decades to do a thorough pre-task brief focused on identifying and managing every risk. While this is a good practice, there’s one, major problem: vegetation management is complex and highly variable. We’re lacking the certainty that can be found in routine environments.

At Lewis Tree Service, we’re talking a lot about ambiguity. In other words, we’re training our teams to notice when they’re in an uncertain situation and take action to learn more about the situation.

For example, during storm restoration, our crews may encounter deep water from storm surges and rain. To ensure safety, we tell them, “don’t drive through water deeper than the center of the tire.” Guess what: there’s a lot of ambiguity hidden in the simple statement. When they approach the water, they can make assumptions and categorize too soon.

Instead, we can encourage our teams to notice the situation and “engage the uns.”

  1. Unknown: How deep is the water?
  2. Unclear: Are you in an unfamiliar area? Do you know the roads?
  3. Uncontrollable: How much water might be under the road? Can the road cave in?
  4. Uncertain: How fast is the water flowing? How strong is the current?
  5. Unseen: Is the water muddy? Is it dark/nighttime?
  6. Unstable: Was the road fine when you entered? Has the road flooded since?

Here’s a clue: When you think or say, “It’s probably just . . .” your mind is trying to reconcile uncertainty. Pause and enlist your team members to learn more about the situation.

In our example above, what could the crew do? Stop the truck. Get a little closer (within a safe range) to inspect the water. Look for movement in the water. Measure the depth with a stick. Together, the crew can make an informed decision.

With a large token of appreciation for Laurin Mooney at Be Highly Reliable for coining the "uns" phrase for us! UN-believable.  

Topics: plan for the unexpected, situational awareness, new view safety, weak signals

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