What do procedures have to do with ergonomics?

More episodes in the Work Factors Podcast

Work procedures: what are they? Learn what's important about writing and following work procedures and effects on worker health and safety in this episode of Work Factors.

Episode Transcript

Adam Pickens: All right, everybody. Welcome back to episode two of Work Factors. I’m your host, Adam Pickens and my cohost here, as always, is Martha Parker.

Martha Parker: Howdy.

Adam Pickens: So this week we are lucky enough to find time in the schedule of a very busy individual, Dr. Camille Peres.

Camille Peres: Thanks for having me. Glad to be here.

Adam Pickens: So, Dr. Peres, thank you so much for being here. I of all people, seeing as how I’m two offices down from you, know how busy you are between class and students and work outside of the university. So I very much appreciate you being here. It’s like an hour out of a very busy day for you.

Camille Peres: Well, I’m happy to give it. I’m always glad to talk about what I do.

Adam Pickens: Yeah, so what you do is really cool. So I’m going to give a brief introduction, and then you can kind of fill us in.

Camille Peres: Okay.

Adam Pickens: Just fill in the holes. So Dr. Peres is in the environmental occupational health department at the Texas A&M School of Public Health with me and Martha, you are a human factors expert, you are a psychologist by training?

Camille Peres: Yes.

Adam Pickens: So if you would, kind of transition us into the world of procedures, because that’s our main topic for the day is, is everything in a layman’s version, like you’re training people on the floor as far as procedures … How did you get into transitioning into procedures?

Camille Peres: That’s actually a funny story. It was actually through networking with colleagues, and so I had arrived at the university and … Now, I have done work on procedural types of issues because as a psychologist, primarily a cognitive psychologist, a lot of what we look at is how people process information, and that tends to be about how do they do step one, and then how do they think about step two and then how do they get to step three?

And does that involve visual scanning or hearing something or touching something? Or, those sorts. We proceduralize a lot of stuff. So I certainly was familiar with a lot of the deeper cognitive concepts around that. And a friend of mine and a colleague of mine and friend at Chevron was collaborating with somebody else with a procedure company to be able to see why there were so many issues with procedural systems in the process safety industry or sort of oil and gas or refining, petrochemical sorts of things.

And she knew that this was a human factors issue and she knew that I had just started at A&M and she said, “Okay, Chevron will fund it, but I want Camille to work on it.” And I think-

Adam Pickens: Awesome.

Camille Peres: “Okay, I guess I’m going to learn all about procedures in this domain.”.

Adam Pickens: I want more of those kinds of friends.

Camille Peres: Yeah, right?

Adam Pickens: So, Martha, you get to work on hooking me up with them [crosstalk 00:03:20]. Outgoing is not my cup of tea, so-

Camille Peres: I got it. Let me tell you the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society. I’ll put in a plug cause that’s how I learned about her, how she and I met. So that’s how I got into it.

Adam Pickens: Okay, awesome. So I know that you, over the past couple of years, you’ve gone from kind of this developmental raw phase of the procedural development and now you’re doing more in the world of actual … get it in the hands of the individuals who are doing it, and how do you train them to write better procedures? How do you have people interpret procedures a little bit better? In making this transition from collecting the data to actually implementing something. How do you see that going? I mean, what’s the biggest challenge of taking it from the raw data phase out into the real world?

Camille Peres: Oh, wow. That’s a really interesting question. I think the biggest challenge is sort of the industry folks love the data that we have because we’ve collected our data in the field with real people, or they love those data. So most of the stuff that I report on those data and I talk about it and say, “Well, this is what we found. This is what the workers did and this is what we’re thinking, and this is what we think the problems are,” they’ll run with it.

The data that we collect in the lab where we say, “Well,” for instance, we found that the safety statements, so like, “Warning, don’t do this. This is dangerous. We want you to pay attention to this.” And everybody has seen those kinds of things on like pill bottles or stuff like that.

Martha Parker: The back of a toothpaste box?

Adam Pickens: Wow.

Camille Peres: There you go, exactly. All kinds of places-

Adam Pickens: Swinging for the fences on that one.

Martha Parker: You look when you get home.

Adam Pickens: I’ve never honestly seen it, so.

Camille Peres: It’s poisonous to children, to babies, too much … yep.

Martha Parker: Yeah, if you take more than the amount that’s supposed to be on your toothpaste, you’re supposed to call Poison Control immediately.

Adam Pickens: What?

Martha Parker: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Camille Peres: There you go.

Adam Pickens: See?

Camille Peres: Because you hadn’t read the hazard statement.

Adam Pickens: I haven’t read the hazard statement. That’s absolutely right.

Camille Peres: There you go. So it must not be designed exactly the way it’s supposed to be. It’s not doing any job. And so that’s the idea, right? If that statement’s doing its job, then you would have noticed it, right? Unless maybe you never actually see the box and the tube is just always on the counter and out of the box for you. But so-

Adam Pickens: I do get my own toothpaste, so-

Camille Peres: Well done. Golf clap. Good job. And so what we’re finding is that some of those designs, you’d think the more the better, you know you have the icon with the alert symbol and you’ve got the colors in the boxes and all of that sort of stuff, the more the better people would attend to it.

What we’re finding in our laboratory studies is that that’s actually the opposite. So the more stuff you have on that statement, the less likely people are to actually to attend to the content of that statement. And so, my laboratory studies though, industry gets real uncomfortable with, because it wasn’t in the real world, but my research colleagues are like, “Oh this is really interesting. Let’s talk about this a little bit further.”.

And so, that tension has been kind of interesting to play with. And some of the industry folks are a little more comfortable with the laboratory research and a lot of the academic folks are very uncomfortable with the applied research because I don’t have as much control over it. But I think the most important part, I think the thing I’m the most proud of with regard to the research we’re doing, is that we’re really taking a problem-solving approach and not, you know, “Okay, well here, I know how to use this hammer, so everything I see is going to be a nail,” and use only one method or one data collection method.

Adam Pickens: Right.

Camille Peres: And we’re collecting a lot of different kinds of data in a lot of different kinds of places because our goal is to help the user, help the worker. So help the guy or girl that’s out there, lady or man, I should say, that’s out there doing a very important job that’s very high-risk, and help him or her do it more safely, more effectively and more efficiently.

And so that’s very motivating, and we really liked that a lot. And what’s really fun too is when we’re there collecting data in the field from those folks and we can say, “This is why we’re here. I’m not here because your boss told me to be here. I’m here because your boss is wanting you to use this paper procedure to do your task. And I’m not being paid by your boss so I can tell your boss this isn’t working very well the way it’s designed right now. And I can tell your boss some things that you wouldn’t be comfortable telling him.” And that gets them kind of interested.

Adam Pickens: Yeah.

Camille Peres: So that’s been a lot of fun, is just trying to be able to really actually implement some of our findings.

Adam Pickens: As somebody who transitioned back and forth between the lab and the field, I always found that very empowering, to be able to go up to the workers and exactly like you’re saying, say, “I’m not working for your boss, I’m working for somebody else altogether, and we just want to make your job better.”.

Camille Peres: Yeah.

Adam Pickens: So I know that you’ve gone, you’ve literally gone all over the world doing this.

Camille Peres: Yeah, I did get to go all over the world.

Adam Pickens: I mean you’ve been quite the world traveler.

Camille Peres: Yeah, yeah.

Adam Pickens: So how have you seen procedures and their effectiveness be affected by cultural differences? I mean, I can only imagine, you’ve been to Southeast Asia and South Africa and Australia and literally all over the world, right?

Camille Peres: Kazakhstan.

Adam Pickens: Oh, wow.

Camille Peres: Yeah. Well, I would say the language was a big issue and particularly in places where they speak a lot of different languages, like in Kazakhstan, where they speak Kazakh, they speak Russian and some … many people speak English, and there was another language I’m not remembering right now. And so, some of the procedures had to be in all of those languages. And you want to talk about document control, that’s very, very challenging for a large company.

And then, in other places, we would find that the sort of the boiler-plate stuff of the procedure would be in English, but then the guts of it might be in the other language. And so that would be really tough, because some of the boiler-plate stuff was important.

Adam Pickens: Right.

Camille Peres: And so that was really, could be kind of confusing for them or some of them, they would be, you know, people, you know, air quotes, “spoke English,” but not really.

Adam Pickens: Air quote, wink, wink.

Camille Peres: Yeah, exactly. And they definitely didn’t read English very well, and sometimes they would only have English procedures. And so, that was definitely the biggest challenge with being in the different countries. Culturally, I think the biggest thing I saw that was consistent was really about safety culture, and the safety climate and whether or not that particular unit or group was really putting some actions around being safe and putting resources into being safe.

Did they translate this stuff when people didn’t understand it? Did they have it somewhere else that was in the language? Did they follow through with changing procedures that weren’t right or had been corrected by the workers? And kind of showing the workers that they really appreciated their correcting the procedures. And that was the thing that I found to be the most powerful.

Now, we didn’t study that specifically, so there may be some differences there that I just didn’t know. I didn’t know and investigate. But that was a thing that I … Those are the two things I noticed the most.

Martha Parker: So I’ve got a question about high-risk industry versus what we consider regular industry.

Camille Peres: Yeah.

Martha Parker: Is it because your work in high-risk industry, from what I understand, is it because low-risk industry doesn’t care?

Camille Peres: No.

Martha Parker: About [crosstalk 00:11:12], or they don’t use procedures, or why the difference in the focus on the whole procedure management, and well-written procedures and validating and verifying that the procedures work between the different levels of industries?

Camille Peres: Yeah, that’s a great question. I’m sure it’s not that the other ones don’t care. I’m just going to go ahead and say that.

Adam Pickens: We’re going to put a disclaimer out right now.

Camille Peres: Yeah, absolutely.

Adam Pickens: That is not the viewpoint of Work Factors.

Camille Peres: Exactly. All the small text right now. I know that the high-risk industries are tallying and keeping up with why are things going wrong. Why do they have, they call them a process safety events when it’s … When it’s not a personal safety event, when it’s not slips, trips, falls, somebody has done something to hurt themselves individually, then it’s more of a process safety event. It’s usually how they categorize them. And that’s when major equipment gets hurt or a lot of people get hurt or there’s an environmental event.

And those just cost more money, they are more likely to kill more people, and quite honestly, they’ve kind of flatlined on being able to improve the record with those, with personal safety. We’ve gotten pretty good at reducing personal safety events. And so, in the lower-risk industries, that I couldn’t even tell you what those are, because I don’t investigate, which is a little embarrassing. Maybe I should have a better notion of that.

But they’re finding that issues with procedural systems and these process safety events tend to be very frequently a root cause, or at least they’re identified as root causes. And so, I think safe operations and procedure systems, those tend to be categorized together. And so people are like, “Well, why? Why? What’s going on?” And then, “How do we fix it?”.

Martha Parker: Okay.

Camille Peres: And so my perspective is more of the, “Well, you can’t just … It’s not just the person’s fault. If this happened everywhere, then there’s a systemic problem.” And so my guess is just that they haven’t seen those kinds of costs, industry costs, in those industries. That would be my guess.

Martha Parker: All right, that’s … I’ll take it. That sounds-

Camille Peres: Yeah, it sounded kind of good.

Martha Parker: … like a very educated guess.

Camille Peres: Yeah.

Adam Pickens: Yeah. A well-educated guess.

Martha Parker: She’s got a PhD, must be it.

Camille Peres: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Or, some really good, good bull.

Adam Pickens: Really good bull. That’s right.

Camille Peres: It’s educated bull, is actually what it is.

Adam Pickens: That’s what we should have named this show instead of Work Factors, Educated Bull. I like it. It’s a play on the good bull, I know-

Camille Peres: That actually be like a sub-line.

Martha Parker: Yeah.

Camille Peres: You know?

Adam Pickens: Yes. Work factors, Educated Bull.

Camille Peres: Yeah. You’re welcome.

Adam Pickens: Yes. We’re saving that as a copyright, you know, Peres, 2019.

Camille Peres: Exactly.

Martha Parker: So, when you talked about going in and you were looking at procedures, and whether the employees did them properly, followed the warnings or the kind of template stuff, and then the step-by-step, do you … You evaluate how well they do a procedure. Do you also actually look at what they’re doing? Physically and mentally what they’re doing, and if it makes sense?

So you talked about reporting back to a supervisor or a manager, that the employee may not feel comfortable saying, “This is dumb. The switch is way over here and it’s behind something. And then step three says I have to go flip the switch. Well, you know, I can’t even get to the switch.” Right? So are you looking at that stuff too?

Camille Peres: Yeah, exactly-

Martha Parker: And how do you evaluate that kind of thing?

Camille Peres: And that’s what we evaluate probably, mostly, is really what is … What’s the job or the tasks that they’re actually trying to do? First of all. And then, does this tool, which the procedure is a tool, the written procedure is a tool, in fact help them do that? And so that’s a lot of what we’ve done. That first round when I traveled, did my world tour, we were observing people work and seeing how they interacted with the procedures and so forth.

And so, that was very enlightening because a lot of times these guys are out there and they’re, you know, it’s cold or it’s … They’re in the North Sea, they’re in the Gulf of Mexico, so it’s either really hot or … And Pascagoula or someplace where it’s just miserable, and they’re doing this task that’s going to take them a while and they’ve got this five-or-six-page procedure rolled up and in their back pocket, because the task that they’re doing takes two hands, almost always.

Adam Pickens: Right.

Camille Peres: And so, the idea that they’re going to have a piece of paper out and say, “Okay, here’s this step. All right, I’m going to do this step and then I’m going to check it off.” Well, that already requires two hands with the pen and the paper and then you’ve got to do your task, so then just seeing that. All right, so is it that they need to group them based on a certain series of steps? Or is that … Those kinds of things is what we originally started thinking about.

Martha Parker: Kind of like the workability.

Camille Peres: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

Martha Parker: Okay.

Camille Peres: And one of the biggest things that we found very quickly, that was very obvious of course to the workers, was that it completely depended on the experience level of the person, you know? And the people who didn’t have a lot of experience or … My joke is they’re holding onto those things like security blankets, you know? Because if they do something wrong, stuff can blow up.

Adam Pickens: Right.

Camille Peres: Right? And where the more seasoned and experienced folks, not so much. There’s some stuff that have just gone to, you know, it’s automatic for them like driving a car, which actually is kind of a little bit dangerous because sometimes they maybe need to stop and think a little bit, and they’re just in automatic mode, so …

Adam Pickens: So, I think that’s an interesting … I’ve asked you a little bit about this in just general conversation, and I think this is a really good point about the experience. Do you see, because I know as an ergonomist we get the response of, “I’ve been doing this longer than you’ve been alive.” You know? It’s the patented response from any worker who’s been doing it forever.

When you get to the point where you see that people aren’t as reliant on the procedure, if you go beyond that, is there a certain point where you have a kind of a law of diminishing return to where they don’t rely enough on the procedure and their ability to maybe change when something in the environment changes? Have you noticed anything along those lines?

Camille Peres: I think it is that. I think it is that they get to a certain point where they don’t rely on the procedure anymore at all. I don’t think it has to do with their ability to change. I think it has to … My current sort of hypothesis or kind of guess about this, is that we’re not giving them the appropriate tool. And so we’re giving them something, a tool that’s best designed for somebody who’s new.

And so, it meets the need of somebody who needs a lot of information and needs a lot of guidance, and that what people who are not new need is something different. And so, that’s what we’re really in the midst right now of trying to do, is figure out, what does that person need? What do those people need, and when do they need it? Is it that they need, when they start the task, to sort of be reminded about, “These are the steps that are riskier, that have some hazards associated with them”?

“Remember to do this or do that. And this is why. These are some things that we’ve changed. Make sure about this. These are the ones that people with your profile tend to screw up on, make sure you don’t screw up on it,” as opposed to saying absolutely every single step.

Adam Pickens: Right.

Camille Peres: Now, that’s my guess right now, but I could be totally wrong. It could need to be something different, but-

Martha Parker: You would have to be educated on that bull.

Camille Peres: I need a little more education on that bull. So that’s the idea. I think we’re just not giving them the right tool.

Adam Pickens: But it’s kind of the idea and you know, we in safety and ergo, if … Usually, if we can get a new employee beyond, and it varies based upon the industry, of course, but if we can get an employee beyond a certain time point and they haven’t been injured, odds are that they’re not going to be injured, or severely injured for the remainder of their time with us. You know?

Camille Peres: Oh, interesting.

Adam Pickens: And so, almost every company’s got like a point in time where … Six weeks. If you as a new employee haven’t been injured within the first six weeks, odds are you’re going to be okay. So I wonder what you’re saying about this, you know, somebody that needs a lot of information starting out versus somebody who’s more seasoned. I wonder if there could be this stepped procedure based upon how your data plays out on your injury rates and all that other stuff?

Camille Peres: Yeah, I think it’s going to be, I would be surprised if we could get to a point where … Well, certainly not with the existing paradigm and tools.

Adam Pickens: Correct, right. Right.

Camille Peres: We don’t have that, but yes, that’s absolutely where we want to get to is that-

Adam Pickens: Developmentally.

Camille Peres: Yeah, we have some appropriate tools that are more scaffolded to sort of, yeah. Yeah.

Martha Parker: Could you even see that it would be at a particular point? And I think you mentioned this with the profiling, but like it’s a … You presented a procedure that is just what you, Camille, need.

Camille Peres: Yeah.

Martha Parker: And it’ll be different than what I, Martha, need, but we’re accomplishing the same task. We’re doing the same job. We have the same kind of constraints around it. Would that ever be something that eventually would happen?

Adam Pickens: A personalized procedure.

Martha Parker: Yeah.

Camille Peres: Well, and one of the things that a colleague of mine, Elliott Lander, has talked about with his company is that some people have dyslexia and there’s different fonts. There’s fonts that they can read more easily that those individuals, some individuals are colorblind, some individuals … Exactly.

Adam Pickens: Case in point.

Martha Parker: Or left-handed.

Camille Peres: Yes, and-

Adam Pickens: Stop making … Seriously, I’m colorblind and I’m left-handed. What are you doing here?

Martha Parker: Some people are bald.

Adam Pickens: Wow. You cut me deep on that one, Martha. Okay. Sorry. Colorblind, and-

Camille Peres: Exactly.

Adam Pickens: … what else do I have?

Camille Peres: So those are the sort of things that … And one of the things too that we’ve been looking, I’ve been working with my colleague Ranjana Mehta on, can we tell how fatigued or stressed somebody is, and do we need to adjust the procedure for that? Somebody who’s in the military was telling me that when he gets deployed a lot of times he experiences sleep deprivation because they’re up all the time. And so, we actually generated two different procedures for himself.

One that he uses when he’s not tired and one that he uses when he’s tired, because the cost of screwing up was so high, because he has to deal with senior people and all of that sort of stuff. And so, that got me and Ranjana thinking, “That makes a lot of sense,” maybe that it would need to adjust for that, as well. So there’s a lot of different things to think about.

Martha Parker: Well, you were talking about driving and how we think of that sometimes as something we do every day. And I get the warning in my car, if I’ve ooched over into the opposite lane too much without signaling, or I’ve driven off into the bumpy part on the side of the road, it flashes like, “Driver fatigue, pull over.” And I’m like, “You don’t know any better than I do.” You know?

I’m being presented with a warning and I’m totally ignoring it. But it’s usually because I’ve reached across the seat and got something out of the floorboard or something really safe and awesome. But having that, it’s almost personalized. Right? But knowing my level of fatigue and how I am doing that procedure, driving, and then what I need to be presented with as I complete those tasks I think would be … Again, it’d be like a Holy Grail of procedures.

Camille Peres: Well, and you think about the driving, that’s one of the analogies I use a lot, is with the drivers is we have the backup camera now. We have the blind side alerts now, we’ve got the, on the roads, we have the bumps. We have the alerts if you’re getting out of your lane. So we have all of these things because we know that people typically screw up on that stuff.

Martha Parker: Right.

Camille Peres: So what do we do? We have the car help us, as opposed to saying, “Well, you should do this, you should do this. Why don’t you do this? You should do this.” Well, yeah, that’s great, I should, but nobody does, you know? And we’re having all these accidents, and so then what do we do? You know, they’ve been adopting the car. And so, I think it’s that same model that we’re trying to do is let’s adapt to the fact that people are in these circumstances and that people change.

And I think that alert is really, your example is really great because I would imagine just … All you need is the warning that you’re outside of the lane, because it could be because you’re distracted.

Martha Parker: Right.

Camille Peres: It could be because you’re tired, but you’re outside of the lane and that’s really all you need to know, is you’re outside of the lane.

Martha Parker: Right.

Camille Peres: I had a friend of mine who got one of those cars and she said, “I never realized what a bad driver I was. It flashes, it beeps, it sings to you, it’s terrible.”

Adam Pickens: I know both of y’all have brand-new vehicles. I have … still old school. Mine will let me swerve all over the road all I want, and it’s a beautiful thing.

One of the things that I often think about is everybody’s got their own decision-making process. So how have you seen individual decision-making processes come into play as … And by individual I don’t mean so much with respect to experience and time on the job, but their personal perception of the negative outcomes. You know what I mean? We, as individual, my personal idea of how negative, negative is. You know what I mean?

If you’re talking about something like Macondo, it’s horrific and I think everybody’s got a pretty good indication of what that is, but a “release,” you know? We talk about this and all the time in oil and gas. Have you noticed any individual variances that might affect how willing they are to follow procedures?

Camille Peres: So sort of the risk perception or hazard comprehension-

Adam Pickens: Right, right. Hazard, yeah.

Camille Peres: And how that impacts … We haven’t investigated that. Right now, we’re just trying to figure out how to actually communicate it effectively in the procedure itself, because I don’t think that’s being done very well. So that’s certainly important. And that’s going to be … There are so many group differences right now that we’re trying to sort through, that are around training. How good has the training been? How good has the presentation been? All the other group differences, and I think the … I think once we’ve tackled that, then I think the individual differences will certainly be important.

Yeah. But I’m not, there’re still so many issues. I think we’re still dealing with a lot of group differences. I mean, without question people have a lot … there are differences in risk perception. I think that’s probably primarily based on training and experience and exposure. One of the things that I’ve noticed is that most people, many of the people I will say, that I’ve spoken with that have experienced an incident at work, or know somebody that experienced an incident at work, have a much a higher sensitivity to the probability of it happening.

And so that is definitely, that’s one of the things we are actually thinking about playing with at some point, is possibly using virtual reality in some ways so people can go through training where their actions actually cause somebody else to get hurt, air quotes, “virtually.” So you have that team member that because of your screw-up, then they don’t get to play anymore, that you know, your team is hurt-

Adam Pickens: You’re seeing negative outcomes to people that-

Camille Peres: Exactly. And that responsibility of that, and that when … Have that visceral piece of it. And I had two different people tell me that yeah, it would be fine. If it doesn’t have to be real life, virtual would be fine, because it’s so uncomfortable to know that your actions could have caused that, and particularly when you know you’re about to go on a chemical plant where you could just as likely screw up, particularly if it’s a simulation of a chemical plant.

Adam Pickens: Yeah.

Camille Peres: So I think that-

Adam Pickens: Seeing that direct linkage between my action and a negative outcome for somebody else.

Camille Peres: Yeah, exactly.

Adam Pickens: Yeah.

Martha Parker: That’s fascinating. It’s really cool.

Adam Pickens: It is.

Martha Parker: So I have a very simple question. Have you ever been in a situation where there’s a procedure that needs to be written but there’s not? And how do you handle that, and how do you help companies or individuals determine that?

Camille Peres: Without question, there’s been workers who have said that they … We had a couple of workers tell us that they know of incidents that occurred because there wasn’t a standard operating procedure.

Martha Parker: Okay.

Camille Peres: So, that absolutely happens. At the same time, there are absolutely procedures out there for way too much stuff-

Martha Parker: That was my follow-up question. So, right.

Camille Peres: And so, there’s … And actually, one of the first steps, really, in the procedural system, and I really like to talk about the procedural system more than just the procedure itself because as this example, one of the important first steps to figuring out, do you need a written document for this? Do you really need to have a written document that somebody’s going to follow? And then, why? And so, what are your criteria? You meaning the organization, what are your criteria for that? And, how are you going to test to know that you’re right?

And so, that is something that … Actually, the Center for Offshore Safety actually just put a lot of energy into thinking and talking about this in oil and gas. And so it’s something that I think that a lot of the process industries have been pretty reactionary with procedures, and that if something has gone wrong or if we’re worried about something, we’re going to have a procedure and everybody’s going to follow the procedure and then we’ll be covered. And then the lawyers-

Martha Parker: Because, that was what the root-cause analysis said.

Camille Peres: Yeah, exactly.

Martha Parker: Okay.

Camille Peres: Or no, not even the root cause for that particular task, just for all tasks and then will be covered. And actually, OSHA says, “You need to have a procedure.” Now, OSHA doesn’t say, “You have to have a procedure in hand.” OSHA says you need to have a procedure that people can train on, right? It needs to be written out what’s supposed to be done, but it doesn’t say all of them have to be used in hand.

And so, that’s where people start getting really nervous, particularly these large companies, and we’re in a very litigious society, and companies don’t want to get sued.

Martha Parker: Right.

Camille Peres: And so the idea is that if we make them have it … Not only do we have it, but they have to have it in their hand, then they’re protecting themselves from liability. So there’s those times when it’s not there and it should be, and then part of that system should be that the worker can say, “Hey, we need a procedure for this.”.

And sometimes, and a lot of times that bottom-up information doesn’t happen, that the workers aren’t necessarily … Really that their opinion and perspective isn’t necessarily valued.

Martha Parker: And that goes back to what you found about safety culture and climate, and that’s typical, I would say … not in all industries, but it’s very common in all of occupational safety. Yeah.

Adam Pickens: A lot of research coming out of the Campbell Institute right now with the National Safety Council, they’re one of the leaders on leading indicators. And so, you know, leading indicators feed directly into safety, culture and safety climate with this idea of people feeling valued and feeling heard with the potential to make a change in their organization.

Camille Peres: Yeah.

Adam Pickens: I think that’s directly linked to kind of what you’re saying, is if somebody needs to make a change in the procedure, usually the person doing the task is probably one of the first ones to recognize this need. We have a colleague here in the College of Nursing that does positive deviance.

Camille Peres: Oh, yeah.

Adam Pickens: Dr. Gary, she looks at procedures from the perspective of, if somebody’s going to skip a procedure, skip a step and do something out of order, it must be pretty dadgum important, you know? Because, she looks at high-risk health care, and so I think the idea of this high risk translates back and forth, whether it’s health care or oil and gas, but she looks a lot at nurses. You look at a lot at operators.

Camille Peres: Yeah.

Adam Pickens: Usually, they’re the first line of defense and if they don’t feel heard, it’s hard to make that change going up.

Camille Peres: Yeah, it’s very true. I love her research, I think it’s so fascinating. But it’s that idea of finding a better way and not … and if you don’t have the right culture, then that’s not going to go up and then out.

Adam Pickens: Right.

Camille Peres: And when you have these large organizations that have … You may have a rig out in the gulf and you’ve got a sister rig that has exactly the same issue, but sister rig doesn’t find out about it because it’s just locally resolved, because nobody wants to tell anybody else, because it’s not officially the procedure.

Adam Pickens: Right.

Camille Peres: Yeah, and I think her work is really, really interesting and that’s all part of that kind of culture. And actually, in some of the conversations I’ve had with the standards groups and things like that, I’ve heard a couple of times when we talk about hearing from the worker, people saying, “You know, and sometimes they have a better idea about how to do it.”.

Adam Pickens: Right.

Camille Peres: And I’ll just go, “Yes, we’re getting through.”.

Martha Parker: Yay.

Camille Peres: Yay.

Adam Pickens: You just kind of hold it in and say, “You know what? I think you might be right. You might be onto something.”.

Martha Parker: “You’re on to something.”.

Camille Peres: “You are not bullable.” Exactly.

Adam Pickens: So we are coming close to the end here, Dr. Peres. So real quick, sum up for us what your next steps are. What are you looking at? What’s the next like aha moment that you’re looking for? I mean, I say that in a way that makes it sound like you already have the outcome and I know that’s not true-

Camille Peres: No, I understand what you’re saying. So one of the things, actually, I had this moment the other day and … So this is way big blue sky, but maybe somebody will hear this and say, “Oh yeah, we can do that. We want to play.”.

Martha Parker: Oh, for sure somebody’s going to hear it. We have a giant audience.

Adam Pickens: Yeah, we do.

Camille Peres: Excellent.

Martha Parker: It’s happening.

Camille Peres: So one of the things that we’ve done in the past is have people come in and do procedures in this simulated warehouse that we have. And so, they come in and they do tasks for a while and we kind of gamified it so that they had to … People who made the most products in this environment over a period of time won $150. Amazing how motivating that is for undergraduate students. But it was only 10, maybe 15 students and it was pretty high-cost as far as data collection goes.

And I would love to be able to have a gaming environment, like one of these massive multiplayer online games, where it’s proceduralized. People can get on there and they get better and then they work with other people and they’re doing these kinds of tasks where we can actually see how people’s … And that there are procedures that you can follow, whether it’s digital and little check mark on the side, or something like that, and see how people can interact with these things and how their behavior changes or improves, and see if that can really translate to the field so that we can get a better idea about how this stuff really works, because it’s expensive and it’s risky to collect data in the field.

I’ve got to really know that I have a solid solution before I throw that over the fence with these high-risk settings. And so, this would be a setting where we could … people could play a game, and so that’s kind of what I’d really like to do next with the experimental settings, is to be able to have that.

Adam Pickens: So how do you … I know that was my last question but I can’t stop. So how do you pull the teamwork aspect out of that? Because, I would assume teamwork’s got to be a vital role in that.

Camille Peres: And that’s actually a really important next step too.

Adam Pickens: Okay.

Camille Peres: Because a lot of these procedures have teams, multiple people that are a working with them.

Martha Parker: Or at least a buddy.

Camille Peres: Yeah.

Adam Pickens: Yeah.

Camille Peres: But usually, because there’s the person in the field and then there’s a console operator and there may be one other person as well.

Martha Parker: Okay.

Camille Peres: And so depending on the task itself, if it’s a startup or shutdown of some sort of really complex unit, then you’re going to have a whole lot of people working on it. And if it’s a regular, more complex standard operating procedure, you might have one or two. But then that would be the other thing, is we could have that teaming piece of it, as well. And how does that impact how the procedures help, that sort of stuff.

Martha Parker: Well, if we play the game, I want her on my team. Sorry. Sorry, Adam.

Adam Pickens: It’s all right, I guess. You’ve already cut me deep today, so-

Martha Parker: You’ve got left-handed skills though. Always useful.

Adam Pickens: Left-handers always have skills. We are more creative, I am told.

Martha Parker: It’s true. You’re using the other part of your brain, it’s true.

Adam Pickens: That’s right. But as an engineer, I don’t find myself being super over creative-

Martha Parker: Creative in different ways.

Adam Pickens: Ah, okay.

Martha Parker: I think I’ve told you this before.

Adam Pickens: Yes, I know. You and I’ve had this conversation a couple of times. All right. Well, Dr. Peres, Camille, thank you so much for coming-

Camille Peres: Thank you for having me. You’re most welcome, and thank you for having me.

Adam Pickens: It is always very enlightening to sit down and have a conversation with you, even though we are two offices down from one another, we don’t get to have this conversation nearly frequently enough, so thank you very much, Martha.

Martha Parker: You’re welcome.

Adam Pickens: Thank you very much, I appreciate it, and we will see everybody on the next episode.

Martha Parker: Thanks, y’all.