How to turn an incident investigation solution of “Remind Employees to” into valuable action items
This is the second part of a three-part series about developing effective solutions in an incident investigation. Brainstorming solutions can be easy depending on the investigation, but wording them so that they are achievable can be tricky. In the first blog we talked about “retraining employees.” This blog will center around “remind employees to…” The third blog will concentrate of “fix/replace…”.
Generic solution #2: Remind Employees to …
It is difficult to remember everything all the time. Each person has many things going on in their life at any given moment. How do we ensure that employees are focused on the task at hand and remembering each step in a process? Verbally reminding them in a passing conversation or even sending reminder emails to all employees may not be the most effective way. There are tools, such as checklists, signs, and refresher trainings that can help people know what to do when the standard operating procedure (SOP) is not in front of them.
Checklists are an easy and inexpensive way to help us remember the chronological order of the steps in a process. SOPs can be long and detailed, which is great and they should be, but using it in the field can be difficult. Developing a checklist based on the SOP that an employee can take out to the field and use while performing the task can be very helpful. Some organizations go so far as to laminate the checklist and provide space for an employee to initial and timestamp each step of the task. A good checklist is clear, concise, and easy to read. The checklist should be stored in a place that is readily available for employees to use.
Many jobs require different or additional personal protective equipment (PPE) for different tasks or areas. We have seen numerous accidents happen because an employee forgot a piece of PPE or wasn’t sure what PPE was required. Placing signs in different areas is another easy and inexpensive way to help people remember what PPE is required. Using signs to warn people of known hazards is a great way to remind them to use caution or slow down to avoid an accident. I would guess that there are exits signs where you work. This might seem silly, of course you know where the door is, but they are there as a reminder in case of emergencies or for people who are not familiar with the building. If several incidents have happened in one area, it may be a good idea to place a sign in that area warning people of the hazard.
Giving refresher trainings on procedures on a predetermined basis helps employees remember the procedures. It keeps those procedures fresh in their minds. Don’t just jump to the solutions “retrain employees” (see our previous blog), but develop a training program that includes refresher training. Again, first aid and CPR are great examples. We don’t get to take these classes once and then be certified for life. Those certifications expire so you must recertify, aka retrain, every two years. Practicing drills (like we do with fire drill) is a great way to conduct hands on training. Practicing something multiple times helps us become more comfortable with the task.
To sum up, sending a safety alert email after an accident isn’t a bad idea. It alerts the organization to a known hazard, but supplement that email with a tangible reminder like a sign. We have also seen organizations send emails reminding employees about an existing written procedure that wasn’t used. Again, not a bad idea, but consider supplementing that email with the development of a checklist or something that the employees can use when they are actually performing the task. Consider annual or biennial refresher trainings for employees.
Even the best employees on their best days can forget steps. Let’s try to find ways to help them remember to set them up for success.
Read the other two blogs in this series: