Leadership for human factors

To address safety issues by improving human factors, Julian Annison, principal industry consultant at Emerson Automation Solutions says it's vital for leaders to challenge their teams in the three primary areas of authority gradient, empowerment, and training.

To address safety issues by improving human factors, Julian Annison, principal industry consultant at Emerson Automation Solutions says it's vital for leaders to challenge their teams in three primary areas:

Authority gradient—Review it and ask, is anyone on a pedestal and why? Who's driving decisions through on dubious ground? Who always gets their way? Then use the findings to help update responsibilities, and remind team members about expectations for them to intervene. "There's a lot of leadership training, but little if any follower training," says Annison. "The goal is getting people to move from doing nothing before."

Empowerment—Do all team members understand their responsibilities and obligations to speak and act? Team members must consider training others and themselves where needed, and do it in a language that gives power to intervene in any situation. They must also support intervention by others. "Team members must learn to intervene when necessary, even against the will of a powerful leader," adds Annison.

Training—To maintain genuine safety competency, Annison advises teams to reexamine how well they actually train their members. This means getting beyond multiple choice tests and stamping certificates; determining the best learning methods for each member; investigating if the training really increased competency; and especially including training in abnormal situations. "Are we validating that the right people have the right skills? Are we training them on normal startup, running and shutdowns; are we covering all credible failure scenarios; and are we giving them the skills to cope with the unknown scenarios?" asks Annison. "Finally, is the training realistic? Is it in a classroom or real life, and are we using technologies that are common elsewhere?"

Read the full May 2017 cover story.