Machine Safety: Does multitasking provide an effective illusion of safety?

Is it possible to have everyone’s safety behavior in the factory exactly as it should be 24/7 without exception? Can safety performance always be at its peak? Are we capable of safe multitasking?

12/14/2012


This Lockout Center board is used at the Yaskawa America Oak Creek, Wis., plant. CFE Media photo: Mark T. HoskeImagine – everyone’s safety behavior in the factory is spot on 24/7 without exception and safety performance is at its peak. Is this an illusion or is it real?

 

In my opinion its best to look at this question first by ruling out what doesn’t apply to this assessment. By this statement I’m talking about the golden “Hierarchy of Measures” for risk reduction. In review, they are:

 

1) Eliminate the hazard – design it out

2) Isolate the hazard with hard guarding

3) Add additional engineering, guards, devices, or layers of safety

4) Administrative controls like – training, signage, assessments, etc.

5) Personal protective equipment (PPE) like - goggles, gloves, outer clothing, shields, etc.

 

Assuming that all hazards have been identified we can probably say that Measures 1, 2 and 3 have been applied as appropriate reducing those hazards to acceptable levels. With that said we can also say that Measures 4 and 5 and any residual risks are then subject to behavior related solutions for risk reduction. Multitasking is definitely a human behavior. So, this discussion should only concern human behavior, right?

 

Well, not so fast. The reason for pausing is to first acknowledge that the concurrent performance of several tasks has also been a focused capability of computer type processes. However, we will rule computer type systems out of this discussion for now because their designs, applications and performance for performing safety functions are thoroughly covered via international and domestic standards. On the other hand, human behavior safety practices are mostly addressed via procedures and training. Safety solutions based on procedures and training are largely based on single tasking human behavior. But, this is where the precise risk level scoring approaches begin to get murky.

 

At this point our friends the cognitive psychologists enter the room where they begin describing two very different forms of human behavior – the automatic process versus the controlled process. It seems we humans have tremendous capabilities to multitask two or more automatic processes or an automatic process with a controlled process. Some humans are even capable of multitasking two controlled processes but generally not very well. So what are these two kinds of processes?

 

Automatic process examples include; smoking a cigarette, drinking water, listening to music, or walking. Controlled process examples include; driving through traffic, climbing a ladder, or having a conversation. Many of us have had the experience of getting lost in a conversation and realizing that you’ve been daydreaming or visibly distracted. This is an example of multitasking in a controlled process and an automatic process according to psychologists.

 

Now, think of an example where someone in a factory setting has been injured. Possibly a technician was trouble shooting an electrical connection without following the required lockout/tagout procedure to save time. And, perhaps the technician was injured because he was multitasking performing a controlled process while he was involved in an automatic process of thinking about the argument he just finished with his supervisor.

 

When there’s no accident or injury is the completion of a task an illusion of safety?

 

J.B. Titus, CFSEYour comments or suggestion are always welcome so please let us know your thoughts. Submit your ideas, experiences, and challenges on this subject in the comments section below.

 

Related articles:

Machine Guarding & The Hierarchy of Measures for Hazard Mitigation

Machine Safety: System degradation and incidence of injury

Machine safety: DANGER: Machine without brain requires yours!

Machine Safety Culture – compliance versus cooperation driven.

 

Contact: www.jbtitus.com for “Solutions for Machine Safety”.



No comments
The Engineers' Choice Awards highlight some of the best new control, instrumentation and automation products as chosen by...
The System Integrator Giants program lists the top 100 system integrators among companies listed in CFE Media's Global System Integrator Database.
The Engineering Leaders Under 40 program identifies and gives recognition to young engineers who...
This eGuide illustrates solutions, applications and benefits of machine vision systems.
Learn how to increase device reliability in harsh environments and decrease unplanned system downtime.
This eGuide contains a series of articles and videos that considers theoretical and practical; immediate needs and a look into the future.
Additive manufacturing advancements; Machine vision enhances robotics; Fieldbus evolution; Process safety; Advice from System Integrators of the Year; Road to IANA
Salary and career survey: Benchmarks and advice; Designing controls; Remote data collection, historians; Control valve advances; Hannover Messe; Control Engineering International
System integration: Best practices and technologies to help; Virtualization virtues; Cyber security advice; Motor system efficiency, savings; Product exclusives; Road to Hannover
This article collection contains several articles on the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and how it is transforming manufacturing.
PLCs, robots, and the quest for a single controller; how OEE is key to automation solutions.

Find and connect with the most suitable service provider for your unique application. Start searching the Global System Integrator Database Now!

The digital oilfield: Utilizing Big Data can yield big savings; Virtualization a real solution; Tracking SIS performance
Getting to the bottom of subsea repairs: Older pipelines need more attention, and operators need a repair strategy; OTC preview; Offshore production difficult - and crucial
Digital oilfields: Integrated HMI/SCADA systems enable smarter data acquisition; Real-world impact of simulation; Electric actuator technology prospers in production fields
click me