The technical detail available to members of our profession is incredible. It also has the potential to be suffocating as the voluminous regulations, ISO policies, procedures, local site requirements, paperwork, basic training, etc. become overwhelming commitments of our time and effort. With all this focus on reactive and condition-based issues, where is the time for a safety engineering focus that goes beyond traditional safety? Is there a time when this traditional approach to safety gives a marginal return on investment of our time and efforts that approaches zero? In short: “The juice is no longer worth the squeeze.” A performance plateau has been reached that requires another set of tools and techniques to deliver beyond the current status quo.
In the competitive business world, performance plateaus are a common occurrence. There are numerous books written about new techniques and technologies that, when innovators give them a try, are all about increasing more juice for the amount of squeeze being applied. And when the next new technique plateaus another innovator does more research into hardware, software and people approaches which deliver a renewed return on the investment; more juice for the new squeeze.
Safety has a parallel that goes back 100 years or so from guarding hardware, through observations, policies, procedures, psychology, automation, etc. At each technology plateau there is a lull as the next innovator tries and documents the next squeeze that needs to be tried. All the while the other techniques remain in place as a firm foundation for what must come next if we are to continue the relentless approach to a zero incident safety culture. Just like in business, in safety we build on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.
As in the business world there are leaders, followers and laggards when it comes to trying the new and challenging approaches which will shape our future and will, in turn, become our new normal. If your traditional squeeze has stopped delivering the juice of ever fewer incidents Rapid Improvement Workshop technology may be the return on investment you can successfully implement. May the juice be with you as you apply the daily force.