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PD Certification

Project First Aid. Is Your House of Cards About to Tumble Down?

Is doing projects a minefield? Yes it is. You know what you know, but not the unknowns that are likely or maybe very unlikely to happen. Where is your focus? Usually on the big, visible, high impact risks and issues right? But what if I told you that accidents are usually caused by a series of events leading to this plane crash or whatever else you can imagine… So it is wise to pay attention not only to registers including risks and issues, but knowing about their dependencies is even more important!

Let’s look at some examples. It varies from construction to aviation and more when you look it up on the internet, but once you read about it and do your own research I am sure you will see the differences aren’t that many. What does that tell you? How are you dealing with this subject in your own job, project, program or organisation?

1. On you will find these 7 common accident causes. Do you see the connection between them?


Consider this statistic: 80 out of every 100 accidents are the fault of the person involved in the incident. Unsafe Acts cause four times as many accidents & injuries as unsafe conditions. Accidents occur for many reasons. In most industries people tend to look for “things” to blame when an accident happens, because it’s easier than looking for “root causes,” such as those listed below. Consider the underlying accident causes described. Have you been guilty of any of these attitudes or behaviors? If so, you may have not been injured-but next time you may not be so lucky.

Taking Shortcuts: Every day we make decisions we hope will make the job faster and more efficient. But do time savers ever risk your own safety, or that of other crew members? Short cuts that reduce your safety on the job are not shortcuts, but an increased chance for injury.

Being Over Confident: Confidence is a good thing. Overconfidence is too much of a good thing. “It’ll never happen to me” is an attitude that can lead to improper procedures, tools, or methods in your work. Any of these can lead to an injury.

Starting a Task with Incomplete Instructions: To do the job safely and right the first time you need complete information. Have you ever seen a worker sent to do a job, having been given only a part of the job’s instructions? Don’t be shy about asking for explanations about work procedures and safety precautions. It isn’t dumb to ask questions; it’s dumb not to.

Poor Housekeeping: When clients, managers or safety professionals walk through your work site, housekeeping is an accurate indicator of everyone’s attitude about quality, production and safety. Poor housekeeping creates hazards of all types. A well maintained area sets a standard for others to follow. Good housekeeping involves both pride and safety.

Ignoring Safety Procedures: Purposely failing to observe safety procedures can endanger you and your co-workers. You are being paid to follow the company safety policies-not to make your own rules. Being “casual” about safety can lead to a casualty!

Mental Distractions from Work: Having a bad day at home and worrying about it at work is a hazardous combination. Dropping your ‘mental’ guard can pull your focus away from safe work procedures. You can also be distracted when you’re busy working and a friend comes by to talk while you are trying to work. Don’t become a statistic because you took your eyes off the machine “just for a minute.”

Failure to Pre-Plan the Work: There is a lot of talk today about Job Hazard Analysis. JHA’s are an effective way to figure out the smartest ways to work safely and effectively. Being hasty in starting a task, or not thinking through the process can put you in harms way. Instead, Plan Your Work and then Work Your Plan!

It is better to be careful 100 times than to get killed once. (Mark Twain)

2. provides data about Airplane Crashes. The big question: What is the root cause?

Statistic analysis of airplane accidents – Root causes of accidents

It is quite rare for an accident to be explained by one single cause. Almost every mishap is the consequence of a chain of events and accident reports usually discriminate between the main cause and a number of contributing factors. The main root cause is human error. In order to try and eliminate this as a source of accidents, crews are requested to follow a strict training routine. Next come aircraft failures, but these are less likely when it comes to modern aircraft.

Why should companies invest in preventing (project) accidents?

Are you aware how much failure in this area is costing peoples lives, and lots of money for companies and tax payers? This iceberg, techniques how to investigate incidents and accidents are described in many books. Here I refer to Accident Investigation Techniques written by Jeffrey S. Oakley, PH.D., CSP, University of Houston – Clear Lake. Published with reference to the American Society of Safety Engineers. Have a sneak preview via this link:

First Aid for Projects

According to the experts investing in prevention does cost money, but the costs when an incident or accident happen are much more! So when something happens, get your First Aid team ready. Control the damage and ensure you investigate well. What happens is the symptom, but the root cause may very well be simple small things with hardly any impact if you look at them separately, but when you connect them to each other you will see the pattern and the real impact. As you can see it is all about people, environment, safety and seeing connections. 

That is why project, program and portfolio management should be analyzed from an integrated perspective, looking for indicators, the essential domino elements, not only for ‘individual’ risks, but especially on dependencies. Double check the enablers. The small projects that may seem unimportant however might be critical to deliver your program in the end.

Do you have the big picture? Do you have your First Aid Team standby to prevent an accident you may see coming now? Or when the damage is done to ensure quick recovery and provide ‘intensive care’ for critical projects and programs? If the answer is NO add it to your Risk Register and get someone to do the analysis right now. Save time, money, lives, projects and if you are working for the government, the tax payers will thank you for it. Ok, I doubt that they actually will, but overspending is always a big issue. Good luck and get well soon. Make sure your House of Cards doesn’t fall apart! 

With special thanks to the persons and websites referred to in this article.
Thank you for being so generous to share your knowledge, talent and visuals. 

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