Just in Time Learning: a synergistic approach to safety and workforce effectiveness

Michel Tol

Product Marketing Manager

23 October 2018

Ensuring safe and efficient operations requires a systematic and collaborative approach. Part of this is selecting and using the correct tools to identify and turn opportunities into realised improvements. However, the great role effective Change Management plays is also not to be forgotten. People drive safe work; software enables and supports them in this. The synergy between people and the solutions they use is something that should never be taken for granted. Companies should set out to create and maintain an optimal balance between discipline through learning, quick decision-making and personal ownership bolstered by innovative digital systems.

This synergy leads to two clear goals: improving workforce effectiveness, and providing a sustainable safe work environment and mentality. You will quickly find out that these goals are inextricably linked. To illustrate this, think of the following: what’s the safest way to perform a high-risk job? The safest way to perform a high-risk job is to not perform the job.What’s the most efficient way to do a high-risk job? As fast as possible, disregarding time-consuming procedures and safety measures. Both of these examples on their own show the undeniable connection between safety and efficiency, and the balance that must be struck between them.

To this end, it’s important to factor in the advances that technology is currently allowing us to make in the software space. Data is no longer static; information is far more available than ever before; content is easily spread across multiple delivery methods; geographical boundaries are broken down. This allows companies in the Operational Risk Management space to start thinking outside of the box: to put the increase of safety and performance into the hands of the end user, through innovative tools. A good example of this is Just-in-Time Learning.

Back in the old days, when you wanted to brush up on some learning at work, you might have had to wait weeks or months for the next scheduled training day. By that point the learning moment is long gone, and any opportunity lost. This is especially problematic in hazardous environments, in which ad-hoc information on possible dangers is not only beneficial – it can be life-or-death. Many a (fatal) incident has occurred due to what I like to call “procedural lethargy”, or: when people become so confident that they know how to do something, that they start to forget why the details of how the job is performed are so important.

This is where Just-in-Time Learning comes in. Few people these days have hours to spend on re-reading procedures that they feel they already understand. It’s more important than ever before to offer bite-sized chunks of content. These should be easy to consume and cover the essentials of what they need to know. This is particularly important in regard to incidents and hazards. In a work preparation context, this leads to unprecedented risk awareness, getting staff to work quicker with the correct information. To enable this effectively, there are several key points that must be addressed:

  • The learnings must be easily digestible. When, for example, being confronted with a previous incident which occurred in your working area, you don’t want to be forced to read a ten-page incident report. Reading a short bullet list or watching a 30-second animation of the incident with clear mitigation methods are far more effective.
  • The learnings must have a logical place in the work preparation process. Even if all learnings are available ad-hoc on, say, your personal mobile device, the chance that you will voluntarily access these at regular intervals is slim. Learning nuggets should become available at points where they add maximum value. For example: maintenance staff needs to perform a ball valve replacement. A digital risk assessment precedes this job. When selecting the equipment to be worked on, an animation pops up which shows a recent reported incident connected to this equipment, as well as advice on control measures to mitigate the possibility of this incident occurring again. Viewing this short video is mandatory, and provides staff with a quick, effective reminder of the possible risk involved. Also, these animations could be shown during a toolbox talk, or even as a popup window during a last-minute risk assessment on-site.
  • The effectiveness of the learning nuggets must be monitored. As with everything, when something becomes routine, it might lose some of its impact. New content must be added regularly, and the effect of the content must be assessed at regular intervals.

Pulling and pushing relevant information to the user at the right time is critical to providing the best understanding of possible risks and how to mitigate these effectively, efficiently and consistently. Integration of Just-In-Time Learning into the work preparation process uniquely streamlines the entire work process by putting critical information at the fingertips of the users, control room, or even corporate management. Staff and contractor alike are able to go into the field faster, with more information at hand, from a single and integrated system, improving the overall safety of the workforce and the plant. Work is performed quicker and with lower risk, and learnings are distributed more effectively than ever.

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