Over a two-year period, a manufacturing company experienced an 11% improvement in productivity that correlated with their installation of the AlertMeter fit-for-duty program. But AlertMeter is principally a tool for improving safety, so how are safety and productivity related?
AlertMeter is a tool that can help employers and supervisors identify when an employee may be fatigued or impaired from medications, illness, drugs, or alcohol. Obviously, an impaired worker is not functioning optimally, because fatigue and impairment affect cognition as well as motor skills, balance, and judgment. These effects of diminished alertness can lead to behaviors and physical movements (e.g., nodding off, sneezing, clumsiness) or even decision-making mistakes that create risks to safety and productivity. Generally, we can call these human errors.
Psychologist James Reason has written extensively on human error, positing that the concept tends to be viewed one of two ways: first, merely as the performance of unsafe or counterproductive actions, and is therefore considered a moral issue; or second, as the consequences of a system that could not defend against the fallible nature of human beings. Clearly, the second viewpoint demonstrates a more constructive approach.
To explain, imagine a manufacturing company where an error in the manufacturing process causes production to halt. A supervisor with the first view, the “person approach,” might likely locate the worker most directly involved with the problem and assign blame and responsibility for the error to that individual, believing that the error’s only origin to be the worker’s actions. As a result, reprimand is a common response. A supervisor holding the second viewpoint, the “systems approach,” would be interested to discover the reasons behind the error—in other words, what led to the worker’s actions and why the systems in place were unable to prevent the error.
Many businesses and organizations are seeing the connection between managing impairment and reducing errors among their workers. For the manufacturing company mentioned above, AlertMeter meant a shift in their approach to human error and the systems they had to defend against it. Through using AlertMeter, the company has diminished the effects that fatigue and impairment can have on worker safety and job performance by reducing the opportunity for human errors to occur. Although the reduction in errors itself could not be measured, errors are obviously counterproductive, and the increase in the manufacturer’s productivity was quantifiably clear.
Avoided errors may be difficult if not impossible for organizations to measure. Yet, the realization that human beings are fallible, are able to make errors, and are always susceptible to the flaws in their organization’s systems is a key first step in structuring those systems for continuous improvement. Reducing errors, improving safety, reducing risk, and increasing productivity are all related to managing human performance, and people’s states of mind are strongly connected to their ability to perform.
Organizations can proactively diminish the number of errors that occur in the workplace by supporting their workers’ ability to perform optimally. When errors are reduced, safety and productivity improve. When fatigue and impairment are being monitored and managed, improved organizational culture can emerge because employees feel that their personal well-being is better valued.
It’s easy to get started reducing impairment and errors Predictive Safety’s products and services, so let’s have a conversation about what solutions work best for your organization.