Debate: "What's the Next Big Thing in EHS?"

What is really the next big thing in EHS? Some answers - leading indicators and analytics and human performance - present strong cases. Others - leadership engagement - may seem basic but are more important than we think. Special session facilitator Tom Krause helps us chart a course with an eye toward the future.

The following questions arose from the audience at the 2017 Campbell Institute Symposium. Unable to attend this year? Join us at the 2018 Symposium for more thought provoking discussions on the future of EHS. 


Question: In the context of human performance, what is your opinion about the value of behavioral based safety programs?

BBS programs have huge value when implemented properly and people don't succumb to the rumors and misapplications (as with any program). HP often follows BBS as a next logical step in pushing back the identification of the systemic drivers of the behaviors by the use of predictable triggers. In organizations that are dead set, for whatever reason, that they will not do BBS, HP becomes a way to reduce errors that result in events, especially safety events, with having the 'stigma' (as it has been referred to it) of the process being a BBS process or program. Not only is there room for both, different organizations need different starting points and the existence of these two complimentary processes is vital to the reduction of fatalities and serious / life altering injuries.

Question: Tom/panel, where is the intersection point of these topics? How should leaders be involved in data/metrics? What is the role of big data in human performance?

Both BBS and HP provide an opportunity to observe and collect massive amounts of data. On the HP side there are three primary indicators that tell leaders whether it is working or not... (1) number and quality of pre-TASK briefings (not just pre-job briefings but task specific briefings), especially for high-risk tasks. This is the preventative measure. The more and better your pre-task briefs are, the earlier you can identify physical as well as performance hazards and either mitigate or eliminate them BEFORE the task. (2) Number and quality of MANAGER observations. When managers are out looking for latent conditions, values mismatches and specific behaviors, this data can give real time indicator of performance. This is often called the DETECTION indicator. (3) Number and quality of NEAR MISS reports. This is the CORRECTIVE measure. As the number and quality of these goes up, the opportunities for the organization to see and fix smaller problems before they become big problems is significantly improved. Using the HP concepts and understanding how and why people fail improves the ability of the organization to get to the right causes, reducing repeat events as well.

Question:  Rob, you mentioned tools that senior leaders have to drive human performance error reduction. Can you speak to some of those tools?

There are several 'tools' we provide to senior leaders in their initial session that drive them to new behaviors related to understanding the leader's impact on human error in the field and latent errors that drive field errors. First they have to understand that their behaviors and actions drive those of the workers in the field and the rest of the organization. In the big picture, if you get senior leaders and managers to use tools and processes, it is easier to get the workforce to do so. Leaders have to understand what they are trying to get workers to do and understand. For example, if leaders don't know the definitions of errors and violations, how can they reasonably believe that they will have credibility with the workforce in trying to reduce these things? Definitions are a vital part of the success, and consistent use of the definitions throughout the organization is a key success factor.  In addition, leaders learn to use the "Essential leadership cycle" as a tool to understand and control the resources (not just people) that enable the systemic drivers that produce errors and events. Lastly, when something happens, they learn to use the Deviation Analysis tool to evaluate whether the incident contained and deviation, and what type of deviation occurred so that it can be dealt with in a just manner.

Question:  There are programs that identify employee's decision making styles to improve decision making. What's your view of these programs in the broader context of HP (human performance)?

We don't consider anything about HP a "program". HP is a set of concepts that initially enables the line worker to improve their performance, but once integrated into the day to day work flow, sustainably improves the organizations abilities.  Part of those concepts for Advanced Error Reduction is understanding how different people with different personalities make decisions, see and manage risk, use stop work authority, follow or do not follow procedures and get hurt. Our personality tendencies are a crucial understanding in reducing errors, deviations, violations, poor decisions and events. These personality tendencies must be understood and managed. I suggest using the following tool to discover your personality tendencies and how they impact performance, including critical decision making.


Rob Fisher spent almost ten years in the US Navy before working at the South Texas Nuclear Project for twelve years. During this time, he worked in Operations, Chemistry, & Environmental and ultimately owned the Human Performance Improvement initiative and the Procedure Program through a difficult plant recovery time. He is currently the owner and president of Fisher IT, Inc. (FIT). FIT is internationally recognized for their work in reducing fatalities and serious / life altering injuries. Rob is a sought-after executive mentor, coach and trainer, and is routinely invited to speak at international and regional conferences on procedures, performance improvement, safety, and event investigation.