What If We Don't Pay Attention To The Human Factor?

What If We Don't Pay Attention To The Human Factor?

CX 88 Staging What If

Here at The Ranch for the last few weeks we have been busy with the all too necessary task of reviewing Risk Assessments and Safe Work Method Statements (SWMS) for a couple of machines. As is the case with a lot of Stage Machinery, they are large and powerful and require great care and diligence to operate with an acceptable degree of safety.

As part of this review process, I found myself on site with the operating staff, observing how they follow their current SWMS and trying to identify any risks that these procedures do not adequately deal with – either because these risks are new, because the original assessed risk level needs re-evaluating, or because the way the venue and/or the machine is being used has changed.

We started by walking through the setup, operation and shutdown processes in an empty venue on a “dark day”, and with the exception of the odd “tweak”, the SWMS seemed to be robust, closely followed and didn’t place too many “nuisance” requirements on the operating staff - you know, the ones that seem good on paper but are only ever really followed when the process is being audited.

After we had finished a run-through of the operation, I was brave enough to suggest that things seem to be fairly robust and that we had the basis for a SWMS that was, indeed, “Safe”

At this point I was informed that the dry-run operation we had just carried out was missing one significant factor, one that regularly caused our staff difficulties and compromised the safe operation of the system

At the same time that our staff are operating the machine (a motorised stage platform), at least 3 other groups of contractors are doing their respective “things”- moving cases in and out of trucks and onto the platforms, setting up set pieces or control gear on the platforms or in the immediate vicinity of the platforms and generally running around in the chaos of load-ins and load-outs that we all know so well.

A call had already been booked for the following morning for a machinery move, which presented a perfect opportunity to watch the process in action “live” as it were and to have any problems demonstrated to me.

So the following morning I accompanied our crew as they picked up the works order and signed into the venue. A review of the work order and a well executed toolbox meeting and off we went.

Now, part of the SWMS calls for “area to be cleared of all personnel...” between step “X” and step “Y” and it was at the completion of step “X” that I witnessed just how easily a perfectly robust method of work can be turned into an exercise in Herding Cats (to quote an observant colleague).

It’s very easy to write in a SWMS “clear the area of personnel”, but if those personnel you are trying to “clear the area of” are attempting to do their own thing under the same sort of time and performance pressure as you are, and, most importantly, none of those personnel work for you or have been told by those they do work for to follow your safety instructions, then, when you politely ask people to leave an area, you get responses such as “certainly – I’ll get right on to that soon...” or “gee, I’d love to help, but I’m a little busy right now”.

The problem was, nobody was in charge – each of the various crews of people were well run but there was no overall co-ordination, so nobody paid attention to the poor guys trying to clear people out of the way to make sure everything and everyone stayed safe.

The SWMS may look good on paper, but unless you equip the people doing the work with the right tools to do the work then it’s doomed to failure. In this case, the tool that was missing was as simple as giving the right people the authority to get others to vacate an area so the work could be carried out safely.

Jands Staging provide articles to the "Staging What If" section in CX Magazine. If you have any questions regarding this article then please comment below or email info@jands.com.au.

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