Safety on Autopilot

August 20 2017
By: Terry L. Mathis

Many of the newest airplanes can almost fly themselves. "Almost" being the key word. We still have pilots and first officers (co-pilots) aboard. Why? Because the autopilot can only do what it is programmed to do, and when a situation that has not been foreseen/programmed occurs, expert problem solving is required.

In safety, many everyday tasks can become routine, then habitual, and simply happen without the need for conscious thought or decision making. Safety on Autopilot However, when certain situations occur, it can be critical for the worker to shut off autopilot and think their way through to a safe conclusion. Standard tasks and procedures should become automatic and should keep workers safe in these common situations. However, workers, like pilots, need to be experts at safety when the autopilot cannot handle what is happening. Pilots use checklists to ensure the basics are covered. Workers can benefit from such tools also, although few organizations have used them.

Don't think all safety is routine or that all safety is special. There is a combination of routine and unusual situations that create risks, and both need to be addressed effectively for excellent safety performance.

Terry L. Mathis

Terry Mathis, Founder and retired CEO of ProAct Safety, has served as a consultant and advisor for top organizations the world over. A respected strategist and thought leader, Terry has authored five books, numerous articles, videos and blogs, and is known for his dynamic and engaging presentations. EHS Today has named him one of the '50 People Who Most Influenced EHS' four consecutive times. Business leaders and safety professionals seek Terry's practical insight and unique ability to introduce new perspectives that lead to real change.

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