Nuts & Bolts No One Can Find: Part 2

They all live here now…

If you give the ideas I talked about in Part 1 a fair shake, it’s a good bet that your work planning is off to a good start. I’ll be honest, many organizations or at least certain crews within an organization really do a pretty good job at it already. But, whether you’re just beginning to improve your process or already great at it, there’s a hidden hazard that can derail even the best plan: Making sure everyone knows how to put it into action. 

Since I’m sure you’re keeping with the model I talked about in Part 1, you’ve already asked the key questions that have helped you map out the job. So, now your people know what they are doing, how they are supposed to do it, what tools they need to do it, and how someone could be injured. In order to make that stick, there are five actions you need to take.

  1. Verify your people know the job: You’ve already laid out what the job is, but it’s crucial that people know how to do it. As with the questions, this may seem like a dumb task, but knowledge shouldn’t be taken for granted. Is anyone on your crew new in their role? Is this a task that hasn’t been done for a long time? Have conditions or configurations changed since the last time it was done? These are the questions that often go unasked, and can lead to accidents if not addressed.
  2. Remove unnecessary complication: This is probably the least intuitive step of the process. It requires a bit of surveying on site coupled with some critical reasoning. What I’m driving at is really quite simple though. I’m talking about removing the hose that everyone has stepped over a hundred times, or staging the workers in zones to prevent them from getting in each other’s way. It might even be a simple thing that people don’t even realize is in their way. A good example of that was the Airman who stood outside in the rain for three hours because he had reported to duty five minutes late and arrived to find a shut door. He didn’t try to open it because he assumed it was locked (it wasn’t). My point is that you open all of the shut doors standing in the way of your people completing their tasks.
  3. Gather all your parts and tools and lay them out: During the planning, you’ve identified what you need to do the job. In this step, you actually go get it, organize it, and make it accessible to the crew. The better you are at doing this, the less likely your people will experience frustration when they can’t find the right screwdriver or they’re missing a crecent wrench.
  4. Identify upset conditions: Assuming the plan was good, and it should be if you follow the format, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. With this step, you should be looking for anything abnormal. For instance, if you planned to work on a section of steam piping which was to be locked out and bled, you may have expected that the valves would seal completely. If you discover once work is underway that one of the valves is leaking by because it is damaged and won’t close completely, you need to stop and reassess. You may have to reassess several times. The key is recognizing when you need to do it.
  5. Plan for failure, stack the odds in your favor: This step directly corresponds with the brainstorming your crew did when you were planning the work. Since you’ve identified the things that could cause someone to be injured, you now have the opportunity to put safeguards in place to prevent that from happening. If you know that there is a good likelihood someone could come into contact with chemicals, maybe the right thing to do is to set up an exclusion zone and then provide PPE designed for that specific hazard and an emergency action plan to be used in the event of an exposure. Look for areas where people could easily make mistakes, and then alter the process in a way that will minimize the consequences when that happens. A great, and easy example of this can be found in any gym. If you watch an experienced lifter squat in a squat rack, you’ll see them set the safety bars in a position where they can easily “dump” the bar and abort the lift if they’re not going to make it. People with less experience just grab the bar and go (and subsequently end up on “gym fail” videos).

If you approach job planning the way I’ve outlined in these two posts, you’re likely to experience two very profound side effects. First, the risk of personal injury will be reduced significantly. Second, and only slightly less important, your people will be engaged and more productive. 

I never would have thought that my Dad’s cans of nuts and bolts could have illustrated such an important lesson. The crazy part, as I alluded to in Part 1, is that it’s not a “safety” lesson. Planning and organizing your work is just a good way to conduct business. As you can tell from the picture, my Dad learned that lesson. The only downside is that my kids won’t have the joy of rummaging through a coffee can when they help Grandpa with a project.

As promised, I’ve included a free planning worksheet with this post. Feel free to download and use it as much as possible. You’ll be glad you did. If it helps (it will), drop me a note at and let me know what your people think.

2 Replies to “Nuts & Bolts No One Can Find: Part 2”

Comments are closed.