The task of operating plant can be very challenging, sometimes proving too challenging, with mistakes being made and having serious consequences. I believe that if some small changes are made, we will almost eliminate these mistakes being made.
Operators, much like drivers, have to undergo training and an examination in order to obtain a licence to operate an item of plant. Once again, like driving categories, operators have to gain different licences in order to operate different types of plant. Once the operator has their qualification proving that she/he can operate said machine, they can work on any site, but what happens when things go wrong?!
Unlike the driving industry, operator licencing is not monitored by a governing body, meaning that there is no rule in place for when an operator makes a mistake.
hen you are driving and either; crash a vehicle, exceed the legal speed limit or have a serious medical condition, the driving governing body (DVLA in the UK) will react with some kind of action; whether that be suspending, penalising or even removing your license. What makes operating plant different, is that an incident has to be near life threatening in order to have any form of investigation or repercussions. But what happens to the lesser incidents? Sometimes nothing at all.
Operated plant is a safety critical industry, which means that one mistake can prove fatal. Other industries that share the same level of danger for example is aviation, nuclear power plant work, offshore oil-platforms and rail-transport. If you look into the amount of examination, review, learning and change that comes from these industries when mistakes are made, why do we not apply this to plant operating?
Our management team in control of operators at Plantforce perform thorough background checks on every member we employ, as a matter of procedure, but there are loop holes in the system that are hidden from us. An example would be that an operator could have crashed the machine pictured above through; a lack of concentration, a medical condition or he/she may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the operator has caused this mistake, they are more than often told to leave site immediately by a contractor, but that is it. Once the operator has left site, he/she can go to another project and start work instantly. We cannot record the operators errors anywhere else other than on our own database. Why is this information not overseen or shared throughout a governing body for us to learn from?
It is not negative to record an incident, the aviation industry for example, proves that learning from mistakes rather than reacting negatively can benefit everyone massively, with the lesson learned being shared freely. When a pilot makes a mistake, it is reviewed and examined thoroughly through the recording “black boxes”. The identified fault is not scrutinised, but used as an opportunity to prevent the same fault occurring in the future. The pilot is then given the appropriate training and lessons to help him/her when flying in the future.
If plant operator mistakes are identified and recorded, we can directly help the operator, by giving additional training, upskilling and deeper evaluation. Instead of companies dismissing the operator immediately, why not have a governing body that has bespoke programmes focused on helping them, rather than stopping them from learning. The operator then understands what caused the error and has a chance to rectify this moving forward. If the operator doesn’t get this chance, what is to stop him/her from making the same mistake, again and again?
If a driver is caught speeding, he/she is given the opportunity to attend speed awareness courses, which have proven to be extremely beneficial, why not provide a similar solution to our plant operators. I guarantee that only good will come of it, and the plant operating industry will become a much safer environment to work in.