- The recent plane crash in San Francisco saw Asiana Airlines Flight 214 being landed by a pilot who had never landed a Boeing 777 before. Yes he had experience flying and landing other planes, but not the 777 and he had never landed ANY plane in San Francisco. As if that wasn’t bad enough – his co-pilot, though a seasoned pilot, was reasonably new as a trainer)
- The horrendous train crash in Spain (the driver was allegedly travelling at twice the speed limit on a notoriously dangerous bend whilst on his cellphone)
I would suggest BOTH accidents were preventable if basic Health and Safety regulations had been observed.
Let’s look at the plane crash. Who made the decision to put a novice pilot in charge of landing the plane when he clearly didn’t have enough experience to do so? Whose decision was it to pair him up with an admittedly seasoned pilot, but one who was acting as a trainer; a role he was new to?
The cost of these poor decisions not only cost lives, but will seriously impact that organisation’s bottom line. Would you fly that airline right now?
The train crash was a very different situation. It would appear that the driver was going way over the speed limit on a notoriously tricky bend whilst on his cellphone. In this case the organization wasn’t at fault, it would appear the driver was.
So in both cases, organizations can spend hours of time to writing masses of beautiful up to date H & S manuals, but if managers make decisions to save a few dollars while ignoring basic safety procedures then people’s lives are at risk. And if employees do the same – then the costs can be horrendous, as was the case in the Spanish crash.
Most accidents happen in seconds. A moment’s inattention, or a distraction can have far reaching effects. But these two accidents were literally accidents waiting to happen BECAUSE of poor decision making.
A long term decision making error (in my humble opinion) much closer to home happened last year. I visited my local supermarket - the store was part way through an incredibly expensive refit, and when the young lass was packing our groceries, I couldn't help but notice all the heavy lifting she was having to do. The whole check out area had been changed. Previously staff had been able to 'fill and slide' bags - the customer would then lift the groceries and put them into their trolley (with the new layout the customer still had to do this so the changes weren’t about making it easier for the customer). Now, because of the new layout staff have to pack, lift the bag, and twist to put the bag near the customer. A small change you might think - but imagine doing that hundreds of times a day.
I asked the young lass if the new layout was better than the old one - she was almost in tears - she said that since the change - which had only been three weeks, she is already seeing a physio for severe neck and shoulder pain which has had a flow on to her now not being able to play sport because of pain!!
Imagine that magnified by all their front end staff. Imagine the time off work. Imagine the long term cost to the health of their staff.
Whose decision was that change? What a shame that no-one trialled the new lay-out to see what effect it would have on staff AND customers. Eventually someone, somewhere will get it that there are ergonomic challenges - but probably not until the cost of staff health starts to show on their bottom line! So short sighted - and so common sadly.
So my hope is that before changes are made that affect people’s health; before decisions are made that could impact on their LIVES – whoever is making these decisions, thinks through the long term impact of their decision.
Ann Andrews CSP
MD the Corporate Toolbox