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Using Adaptive Capacity to Create Safety

Posted by Beth Lay, Director of Safety and Human Performance on Dec 15, 2020 3:31:30 PM

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When studying struck-by close calls, we discovered several recurring patterns. Commonalities in some of these close calls were crews working in remote areas who seldom asked for help, and over reliance on break cuts when other types of cuts would have been more effective. Why? Because crews were more comfortable with break cuts; they were their default cut.  

While we have inroads to make, the Lewis approach to human performance is a combination of operational discipline and adaptive capacity. We train our craftworkers to follow established policies and procedures (operational discipline) but also support them by building knowledge and practices that will enable them to create safety in highly variable situations (adaptive capacity).

Example of operational discipline

Follow the protocols to establish a drop zone. Employ situational awareness (e.g., size of canopy, slope of land, speed of wind, lean of tree) to ensure the drop zone is adequate. Establish communication protocols to ensure no one enters the drop zone without expressed acknowledgement and permission from the trimmer.

Example of adaptive capacity

Building adaptive capacity when felling or trimming could include ensuring all craftworkers have a greater competence level with multiple types of cuts and different tools (e.g., rope jacks, wedges). Crews facing a difficult tree might pause to think about it overnight and come back in the morning when reenergized and the light is better. Last, but certainly not least, crews might pause to get input from others. Capacity = having options ready (e.g., knowledge, variety of tools, different methods, more time). 

As Tony Robbins has famously said, “Stay committed to your decisions but flexible in your approach.” Building adaptive capacity is an active learning process that we can all use to create safety.

This post originally appeared as a Sponsor Spotlight in the November/December 2020 issue of the Utility Arborist Association Newsline

Topics: creating safety, adaptive capacity

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