Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Article called "Relax? Don't do it" by Catherine Quin published in the Guardian Office Hours supplement on 15 October 2007

The debate about whether some amount of stress is good for you. Research from the universities of Kentucky and British Columbia has shown that moderate amounts of stress can strengthen the immune system, thought to relate to the primeval fight or flight response to protect primeval humans from injury sustained in a stressful encounter. However, any more than controlled bursts of stress have a negative impact.

Stress can be "acute," which is bouts interspersed with periods of calm. However, "chronic" stress means you don't get the periods of calm. For example, you can't switch off when you get home from work or lie awake at night worrying.

Stress can cause over stimulation of the adrenal gland which interferes with cortical levels, which in turn disrupts waking and sleep patterns. The result can be migraines, hypertension, lowered immunity and depression.

The consequences of stress are closely related to the individuals perception. Even top performs get stressed, but they have identified strategies to control the symptoms and harness the stress to help them perform better. To do this you need to first recognise you have a choice in how you respond to stress. You then need to be able to recognise the effects stress has on you and then learn how to control these effects.

Andy Brazier

The role of consultants

An article in The Times2 on 15 October 2007 by Joe Joseph titles 'Modern morels.'

It asks if you are sitting on a bus or train next to someone doing their homework and you can see them answering a question wrong, should you correct them?

Alexander Pope is quoted as saying "to err is human, to forgive is divine." He did not say "to err is human, but to correct is divine" because no one likes an interfering know-it-all stranger.

There are certain groups of people we pay to criticise others. They include teachers, judges and management consultants. For the latter, bosses pay consultants break uncomfortable news (e.g. restructuring). This leaves the boss free to implement the changes they planned all along and the consultants get the blame. The consultant is not being payed for their corporate insights, but to keep quiet about the Machiavellian subterfuge.

The article finishes by asking whose job is it to criticise outside of work, school etc.? The answer being "spouses."

Andy Brazier

Friday, October 12, 2007

Aviation industry humour

These appear in many places on the internet. They make me laugh and I have blogged them as I am sure I will have a use for them one day when providing human factors training. I don't know the original source, but I copied them from this website

Qantas Maintenance Humor
After every flight, pilots fill out a form called a gripe sheet, which conveys to the mechanics problems encountered with the aircraft during the flight that need repair or correction. The mechanics read and correct the problem, and then respond in writing on the lower half of the form what remedial action was taken, and the pilot reviews the gripe sheets before the next flight. Never let it be said that ground crews and engineers lack a sense of humor. Here are some actual logged maintenance complaints and problems as submitted by Qantas pilots and the solution recorded by maintenance engineers. By the way, Qantas is the only major airline that has never had an accident.

(P = the problem logged by the pilot.)
(S = the solution and action taken by the engineers.)

P: Left inside main tire almost needs replacement.
S: Almost replaced left inside main tire.

P: Test flight OK, except auto-land very rough.
S: Auto-land not installed on this aircraft.

P: Something loose in cockpit.
S: Something tightened in cockpit.

P: Dead bugs on windshield.
S: Live bugs on back-order.

P: Autopilot in altitude-hold mode produces a 200 feet per minute descent.
S: Cannot reproduce problem on ground.

P: Evidence of leak on right main landing gear.
S: Evidence removed.

P: DME volume unbelievably loud.
S: DME volume set to more believable level.

P: Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick.
S: That's what they're there for.

P: IFF inoperative.
S: IFF always inoperative in OFF mode.

P: Suspected crack in windshield.
S: Suspect you're right.

P: Number 3 engine missing.
S: Engine found on right wing after brief search.

P: Aircraft handles funny.
S: Aircraft warned to straighten up, fly right, and be serious.

P: Target radar hums.
S: Reprogrammed target radar with lyrics.

P: Mouse in cockpit.
S: Cat installed.

P: Noise coming from under instrument panel. Sounds like a midget pounding on something with a hammer.
S: Took hammer away from midget.

All too rarely, airline attendants and pilots make an effort to make the in flight safety lecture and other announcements a bit more entertaining. Here are some real examples of intentional and unintentional humor that have been heard or reported:

1. On a Southwest flight (SW has no assigned seating, you just sit where you want) passengers were apparently having a hard time choosing, when a flight attendant announced, "People, people we're not picking out furniture here, find a seat and get in it!"

2. On a Continental Flight with a very "senior" flight attendant crew, the pilot said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've reached cruising altitude and will be turning down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance the appearance of your flight attendants."

3. On landing, the stewardess said, "Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you're going to leave anything, please make sure it's something we'd like to have.

4. "There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane"

5. "Thank you for flying Delta Business Express. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride."

6. As the plane landed and was coming to a stop at Ronald Reagan, a lone voice came over the loudspeaker: "Whoa, big fella. WHOA!"

7. After a particularly rough landing during thunderstorms in Memphis, a flight attendant on a Northwest flight announced, "Please take care when opening the overhead compartments because, after a landing like that, sure as hell everything has shifted."

8. From a Southwest Airlines employee: "Welcome aboard Southwest Flight 245 to Tampa . To operate your seat belt, insert the metal tab into the buckle, and pull tight. It works just like every other seat belt; and, if you don't know how to operate one, you probably shouldn't be out in public unsupervised."

9. "In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks will descend from the ceiling. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child traveling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are traveling with more than one small child, pick your favorite."

10. "Weather at our destination is 50 degrees with some broken clouds, but we'll try to have them fixed before we arrive. Thank you, and remember, nobody loves you, or your money, more than Southwest Airlines."

11. "Your seat cushions can be used for flotation; and, in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and take them with our compliments."

12. "As you exit the plane, make sure to gather all of your belongings. Anything left behind will be distributed evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses."

13. And from the pilot during his welcome message: "Delta Airlines is pleased to have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!"

14. Heard on Southwest Airlines just after a very hard landing in Salt Lake City the flight attendant came on the intercom and said, "That was quite a bump, and I know what y'all are thinking. I'm here to tell you it wasn't the airline's fault, it wasn't the pilot's fault, it wasn't the flight attendant's fault, it was the asphalt."

15. Overheard on an American Airlines flight into Amarillo, Texas, on a particularly windy and bumpy day: During the final approach, the Captain was really having to fight it. After an extremely hard landing, the Flight Attendant said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Amarillo . Please remain in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what's left of our airplane to the gate!"

16. Another flight attendant's comment on a less than perfect landing: "We ask you to please remain seated as Captain Kangaroo bounces us to the terminal."

17. An airline pilot wrote that on this particular flight he had hammered his ship into the runway really hard. The airline had a policy which required the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exited, smile, and give them a "Thanks for flying our airline." He said that, in light of his bad landing, he had a hard time looking the passengers in the eye, thinking that someone would have a smart comment. Finally everyone had gotten off except for a little old lady walking with a cane. She said, "Sir, do you mind if I ask you a questi on?" "Why, no, Ma'am," said the pilot. "What is it?" The little old lady said, "Did we land, or were we shot down?"

18. After a real crusher of a landing in Phoenix, the attendant came on with, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Capt. Crash and the Crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we'll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal."

19. Part of a flight attendant's arrival announcement: "We'd like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to go blasting through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you'll think of US Airways."

20. Heard on a Southwest Airline flight. "Ladies and gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section on this airplane is on the wing and if you can light 'em, you can smoke 'em."

21. A plane was taking off from Kennedy Airport . After it reached a comfortable cruising altitude, the captain made an announcement over the intercom, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain speaking. Welcome to Flight Number 293, nonstop from New York to Los Angeles . The weather ahead is good and, therefore, we should have a smooth and uneventful flight. Now sit back and relax... OH, MY GOD!" Silence followed, and after a few minutes , the captain came back on the intercom and said, "Ladies and Gentlemen, I am so sorry if I scared you earlier. While I was talking to you, the flight attendant accidentally spilled a cup of hot coffee in my lap. You should see the front of my pants!" A passenger in Coach yelled, "That's nothing. You should see the back of mine."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Ergonomics checklist

A very useful information sheet is available from Bosch Rexroth at their website.

Andy Brazier

Six sigma applied to safety improvement

Article "A Safer Way to Manufacture" by Walt Rostykus. Published on the Industry Week website September 2007

Goodyear wanted to improve safety in their tyre manufacturing process. They mapped out a strategy that was linked to Goodyear's continuous improvement process and applied Six Sigma's five steps to safety:

* Define: Establish a common goal for improvement and metrics to track process. Establish needed resources including a support infrastructure.
* Measure: Identify and assess tasks for ergonomic risk. Determine the level of exposure to risk.
* Analyze: Evaluate and identify hazards. Evaluate new tools and processes for risk.
* Improve: Control risks and hazards in the workplace. Validate reduction of risk.
* Control: Monitor, review and maintain controls.

Given the number and diversity of Goodyear operations, officials decided the long-term plan would focus on select locations each year, and be initiated in four phases:

* Establish common tools and approach. In addition to the Ergonomics Process Standard, officials selected common assessment and tracking tools to ensure consistent measurement and tracking. Consultant engineers conducted workshops to engage both plant leadership and leaders of the ergonomics process. Together, they developed implementation plans for their respective sites.
* Engage associates and make quick improvements. Consultant engineers led rapid improvement activities to make quick, simple changes in the workplace. This approach engaged associates, improved the workplace quickly, and started the momentum for the ergonomics process.
* Establish a sustainable improvement process. Key associates took special training to develop the skills to conduct ergonomic risk assessments and design/implement solutions in the workplace. This phase established a sustainable improvement process that could continue long after the consultants left the plant.
* Follow up and audit the process. Finally, officials audited each ergonomic process against the criteria to ensure the plant met company expectations.

To improve the chances of success, Goodyear started with five pilot plants. They were selected for different reasons including; high incidence of work-related musculoskeletal disorders (need to do it), interest of plant management (want to do it), type of operations/products (opportunities for improvement), and agreement with labor (commitment to do it).

A Systems Approach

Based on the pilot implementations, Goodyear designed an Ergonomics Center of Excellence (ECOE) model, which allows for a systematic rollout that includes:

* Site visits by an ergonomics consultant. The purpose is to align expectations with the project charter.
* Conduct RAPID events. RAPID events are a form of Kaizen tactical activity that makes swift, measurable and relevant improvements to the workplace, eliminating non-value-added work elements.
* Follow-up audits to ensure that the process aligns with Goodyear's internal process document.
* Training for all team members, which includes plant manufacturing, functional leadership and floor employees.

Andy Brazier

Simulator training alone not enough, experts warn

Excerpts from an article by Jennifer Harrington September 24, 2007. Available from AINonline

Human error is a contributing factor in 60 to 80 percent of all air incidents and accidents, according to FAA statistics. Advisory Circular 120-51E states that many “problems encountered by flight crews have very little to do with the technical aspects of operating in a multi-person cockpit. Instead, problems are associated with poor group decision-making, ineffective communication, inadequate leadership and poor task or resource management.” The facts also show that relatively few corporate flight departments routinely address issues such as human factors and crew resource management (CRM).

Steve Hopkins, chief instructor and senior partner at Century CRM (Booth No. 1217), a pilot-oriented resource management training provider, said part of the problem stems from the fact that most training programs have been developed using outdated data. “Historically, back in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, aircraft weren’t as reliable as they are today,” he said. “If the engine or equipment failed, you needed to know what to do.” As technology advanced, however, hardware failures declined. Unfortunately, “the human factors have stayed pretty constant. People still make the same stupid mistakes,” he said.

“For most operators, 100 percent of their training budget is focused on the simulator, which addresses 20 percent of the accidents,” said Gary Rower, founder of Century CRM. “The human factors, which cause 80 percent of the accidents, go unaddressed.”

Andy Brazier

Monday, October 08, 2007

The tragic human cost of NHS baby blunders

Article in the Observer by Denis Campbell on Sunday September 23, 2007. Available from their website

Quote - "Errors and negligence that result in stillbirths or disabled babies are costing Britain's hospitals billions in compensation. In this investigation, The Observer reveals how staff shortages are wrecking the lives of countless parents "

This article lists a number of tragic cases where errors by medical staff have led to death or severe handicap to babies during birth. However, I can't see how the conclusion that these errors are caused by staff shortages has been made.

I am concerned that the NHS fails to learn from the mistakes that take place. It almost seems that they are expected to say that they need more staff, and are using these errors as a justification. This seems pretty bogus to me. Until the NHS starts to understand the root causes of error they will not be able to learn.

Another quote from the article - "The Department of Health insist that England has a good record on births. Gwyneth Lewis, the Department of Health's chief adviser on childbirth, says: 'Due to the skill and expertise of our midwives and doctors, England is one of the safest places to have a baby.'"

Perhaps it is a case that the principles of risk management do not apply in the medical profession.

Andy Brazier

Ergonomics and the bottom line

"Ergonomics And Economics Why ergonomics makes a lot of sense from a dollars-and-cents standpoint and why it may be inevitable because of legislation.
By M. Franz Schneider published in Office Ergonomics May/June 1985 and available at this web address

A group of 123 office workers were selected to investigate the impact of ergonomic furniture on productivity. For eight months before any design changes, workers kept diaries of time spent on various tasks. The absenteeism rate, and number of errors per document and time to complete tasks was monitored. The workers were given checklists which they completed every half hour, describing their postural comfort and perceived well-being.

Workers participated in the selection of furniture through user evaluations, development of layouts, and determination of finishes and accessories. The performance measures were continued for six months after the design changes.

Results were impressive: Monday morning absenteeism dropped from 7 per cent to less than 1 per cent. Over-all absenteeism fell from 4 per cent to less than 1 per cent. Error rates in document preparation fell from 25 per cent to 11 per cent. The percent of the day computer equipment was in use increased from 60 to 86. These results signified an increase in active work time of more than 40 per cent. Reports of postural discomfort showed a marked drop in frequency, severity and duration.

The subjective ratings that managers made of their own performance indicated that more than 70 per cent felt that their effectiveness had improved "very much." Ninety per cent subjectively rated the productivity of their employees as "much improved."

It is suggested that the fact that the study started 8 months prior to the design changes should mean the "observer effect" was minimised because performance only improved after the design changes were made. Also, the productivity improvements endured after the study team was no longer on-site.

Other studies have demonstrated similar benefits:

The performance of State Farm Insurance clerical workers improved as much as 15 per cent with ergonomically acceptable work stations and seating (Dr. T.J.Springer).

Laboratory work showed that the keystroke rate for data-entry tasks increased five per cent when workers were moved from an ergonomically unacceptable environment to one that was ergonomically correct (Dr. Marvin Dainoff).

The performance of office workers at Blue Cross-Blue Shield was shown to improve with the move to an ergonomically enhanced environment, resulting in an overall productivity improvement of 4.4 per cent.

The Norwegian State Institute showed improvements to work station layout and seating, halved back-related absenteeism and reduced turnover from 40 per cent to 5 per cent.

At a major automobile company, management workers used their computer equipment less than 12 per cent of the day. After the introduction of ergonomic computer tables and an improved chair, the VDT-use rate went up four times. Time taken to complete reports and memos was reduced, and the quality of correspondence was rated as being higher. More significantly, the average management worker had at least three more hours per week of time for work. Time that had initially been eaten up by the tedious clerical/management interface was freed by the use of "user-friendly" computer equipment. A telemarketing group reported an increase from ten per cent to 80 per cent on final closings of sales after the change to ergonomically enhanced office furnishings and improvements to the acoustics and lighting of the environment.


People generally work only 60 per cent of the working day, or about 288 minutes. A 5 per cent improvement would provide 14 minutes of productive work per day, 14 fewer minutes of back discomfort and getting up to wander around the office, and 14 more minutes to review reports. There would be 14 fewer minutes of re-doing memos that have been processed incorrectly and 14 minutes for new work, 14 fewer minutes of frustration with screen glare and 14 more minutes of effective programming.

Andy Brazier