Improving How We Work: simpler, safer
By Mike Dunn, Interim Deputy Chief Operations Officer
The discussion of the “Improving How We Work” program at the recent All Hands meeting has raised interest in the initiative’s activities and progress. At its core, Improving How We Work seeks to create an environment where our people can be successful and safe.
First, a bit of background. Improving How We Work is part of the laboratory’s response to a series of safety incidents and near misses. The common thread was a breakdown in integrated safety management. In some cases, work planning and safety procedures were not followed. In others, workers attempted to perform work that was out of scope, or steps were omitted or not followed. Sometimes, management did not fully authorize work and there was a lack of awareness that work was taking place. There was a breakdown in analyzing and communicating hazards and controls, resulting in work with inadequate controls. All of these factors cumulatively pointed to a need for improvement in the laboratory’s work planning and control program.
In discussions with stakeholders, it became apparent that the current online Work Planning and Control (WPC) application had become the central element of our work planning and control program. Communication, worker involvement, training, learning and support became secondary, with much room for improvements in effectiveness.
Improving How We Work strives to correct the deficiencies in the current process. When we’re successful, we’ll see:
- An emphasis on communication
- Frequent face-to-face communication, teamwork and interaction around work planning
- Management involves workers in planning and workers take an active role
- New/improved procedures
- A clearly defined, end-to-end, work planning process
- A work process that uses less, but more useful documentation
- Support and training so people can excel in work planning and work execution
- Targeted, useful training
- All participants understand their role and how to do it effectively
- A focus on “hands on” training
- Management support
- An emphasis on support, de-emphasis on audits
- Support for behavioral change
- The process adds value — it’s not compliance and check-the-box driven
- Work is paused or stopped when not going as expected; people are comfortable asking questions
What will change?
A large project team of stakeholders and subject matter experts has been assembled to develop new procedures and documentation, training, and revise the work planning and control application. Another subteam is developing communications to assist with change management. The outcome will be a graded approach to needed documentation based on common or unique hazards. There will be an easy-to-use reference for doing work at the laboratory.
The project teams are developing a new, online application for low-risk and some moderate-risk work. This new Work Control Document – EZ (WCD-EZ) will be a simple, short (two-pages) work control document that clearly outlines the work and identifies the appropriate hazards and controls. The WPC application will remain in place for high-risk, high-complexity work. However, the application will be modified to improve the user experience and produce helpful work control documents.
Refreshed training will support this simpler and safer way to work. With an emphasis of good on-the-job training, the program will present more opportunity to utilize “skill of the worker” to safely accomplish much of our research and operations.
We hope to roll out the new work planning and control program by the fall, and we’ll provide more information on this effort in coming months. You can help contribute to these important changes by providing your input when asked to respond to a survey or focus group request.
Improving How We Work clearly aligns with the Impact Argonne vision of building science and technology leadership, operational effectiveness and a world class community of talent. Through the efforts of everyone engaged in Improving How We Work, together we’ll shift worker behaviors, simplify our processes and build a stronger culture of safety.