May 23, 2012 / by Alisa Hafen / No Comments

The numbers speak for themselves. Poor decision making is the root cause of many—if not most—accidents.

You don’t have to be a high-time worker to make consistently good decisions about the task. New workers already know most of the things that are likely to get them into serious trouble:

Failure to use PPE, failure to follow procedures, unauthorized operation of equipment, unauthorized entry into restricted area, etc.
The key to applying training obtained is recognizing potential hazards and taking timely action to avoid/control them.

The active decision making process can be broken down into three basic steps: Anticipate, Recognize and Act!!

Let’s look at each of these in detail.

Anticipate: What could go wrong?

Effective decision making begins with anticipation— thinking about what could go wrong before it actually does.

If you’ve already considered the problems most likely to arise, you’re thinking like a professional, which puts you ahead of the game.

This isn’t to suggest paranoia, but rather to stress the importance of maintaining an active mental “lookout” for potential problems before and during the task.

Recognize: Has something gone wrong?

Avoid problems during the task by paying attention! The sooner you recognize a problem (or potential problem) and start thinking about how to handle it, the better.

Some problems are obvious. A broken tool will make itself known immediately. But smaller, more insidious problems can be difficult to detect if you’re not paying close attention.

The key is to stay alert and look for things that don’t seem normal, or don’t fit with expectations.

Pay attention to anything that gives you “cause to pause.” These are signals that the situation is changing—possibly for the worse—and that you may need to take action.

Act: Evaluate your options and choose one.

Here’s where many workers fail. They recognize the problem, but don’t do anything to confront it. Why?

It’s inconvenient. It means a major change in plans, and it may mean making a difficult or unpleasant choice.

Regardless, once you’ve recognized a problem, or potential problem, there is a choice to be made.

That choice depends upon a number of factors—the type and seriousness of the problem, the rate at which the situation is deteriorating and the available alternatives.

The Forgotten Step—“Evaluation”

Once you’re on the ground, it’s a good idea to spend a few minutes going over the task in your head.

What went right? What went wrong? Were there problems, or potential problems? Could you have anticipated and recognized them sooner?

Score yourself. Be as objective as possible, and don’t grade on the curve.

If you do this consistently, you’ll soon find yourself recognizing and catching problems earlier and dealing with them more effectively.

                                           “Talent works, genius creates.” ~ Robert A. Schumann