One of the topics we’ve explored on this blog is empowering workers to take responsibility for safety, and to think pro-actively about risks and hazards. In this post we’ll continue that theme by looking at what happens next.
If, for instance, you have a worker who identifies a potential hazard, or feels that something is not safe, what is the next step? In some situations it might be appropriate for them to carry on with the task in hand and then file a report. In others, according to the Stop Work Principle, all workers should have the authority to stop the job.
Stop the Job was the topic of a thought-provoking talk by Commander Kelly Sullivan at this year’s PSC in May. Kelly is the founder of Control Zone Solutions, and an oil and gas industry consultant. He uses his 21 years’ experience in the U.S. military to bring a unique perspective to the subject of safety. In his talk he explained how the strict safety protocols in the military are applicable to our industry.
“In the military there is a process for everything we do, and everything has a purpose. We have controls in place, and set criteria but when something isn’t going right we stop the job. Like the military, workers in oil and gas are working in a high risk environment involving dangerous and expensive equipment. Giving them the authority to stop the job could save lives,” said Kelly.
How you can make Stop the Job work for you
It might seem counter-intuitive to encourage employees to stop the job, but within the context of a safety culture where initiative and pro-active thinking are encouraged, it can be highly effective in reducing injuries and incidents.
Kelly explained that the following principles are an important starting point:
- It must start with leadership because everyone in the organization has to feel comfortable stopping the job.
- Workers must be confident that if they stop the job there will be no negative repercussions. Even if that means admitting to an error.
- For every job there must be a mental model of how that job should progress, based on tools such as a Job Safety Analysis or Job Hazard Analysis. This provides expectations against which employees can measure what is actually happening.
- There must also be room for intuition. Employees should be able to act on a feeling that something is not right.
What to do after the job has been stopped
The final piece is to make sure there is always a debrief whenever a job is stopped.
There will always be lessons to learn – about mistakes that were made, safeguards or protocols that could be introduced, or even the fact that the job didn’t need stopping. Whatever the conclusion, though, it’s important that no one feels reprimanded or censured. Humans make mistakes, and each one is an opportunity to learn.
Even if the phrase ‘stop the job’ is new to us, it aligns with many safety culture posts we have published on this blog, including: