Category Archives: Self-Checking

Human Performance Tool Spotlight: Self-Checking

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Hello Human Performance Toolbox Community! I have recently been teaching some human performance fundamentals classes and have been asked to share content with my website visitors, and I love to share and trade human performance improvement information. So, I’ve made the decision that over the next few weeks, I will be publishing a lot of human performance tool (HPT) content specific to the tools field workers should be using. These tools will not specifically be for knowledge workers or leadership, but everyone gains by understanding what they are, what their benefits can be, and how to apply them when appropriate. As a reminder, tools are only part of a human performance improvement initiative and they are only to be used when they matter the most, which often is in preparation of managing a critical step, or recognizing you’re in an error-likely situation. Let’s get right to it! The oldest of these tools was introduced to commercial nuclear power sometime in the early 90s: Self-Checking

Self-Checking: A human performance tool helps the performer focus attention on the appropriate component, think about the intended action, understand the expected outcome before acting, and verify the results after the action. When used rigorously, self-checking boosts attention and thinking just before a physical action is performed. The performer pauses to focus their attention, taking a moment to reflect on the intended action, the component, and its expected outcome. The performer thinks about whether the proposed action is the right action for the situation. Again, it must be emphasized that the performer needs a sound technical knowledge to know what the right thing to do is. If uncertain, the performer resolves any questions or concerns before proceeding. When prepared, the performer takes the action, followed by a review of the results of the action to decide if the right result was obtained. An individual should conscientiously and deliberately initiate the self-checking process before, during, and after the performance of an action. The actions to perform self-checking are Stop, Think, Act, and Review, or STAR. By its very nature, STAR is visible (overt) and easily recognized by the deliberate actions and the pauses associated with the four distinct actions defined by STAR.

    • STAR – Stop – Think – Act – Review
    • Lack of self checking results in the majority of error
    • Self checking identifies errors before they occur
    • Must be routine, conscious, deliberate, but not automatic

Most companies identify self-checking tools as important. These tools involve developing and implementing worker-based approaches such as S-T-A-R (Stop-Think-Act-Review). They are most applicable when operating in skill-based and rule-based performance modes, and are particularly effective for repetitive tasks. Self-checking helps workers focus attention on the appropriate action, think about that action, understand the expected outcomes and verify results. This tool promotes situational and self awareness.

Following is a description of the S-T-A-R steps:

  • Stop. Pause to focus attention on the immediate task.
  • Think. Think methodically and identify correct action to perform and understand what will happen when correct/incorrect action is performed.
  • Act. Perform the action.
  • Review. Confirm anticipated result has occurred or apply contingency if required.

This tool necessarily engages workers because they perform it on themselves.

Purpose:

Self-checking helps the performer focus attention, taking a moment to reflect on the intended action, the situation, and its expected outcome. The performer thinks about whether the proposed action is the right action for the situation. It must be emphasized that the performer needs a sound technical knowledge to know what the right thing to do is. If uncertain, the performer resolves any questions or concerns before proceeding. When prepared, the performer takes the action, followed by a review of the results of the action to decide if the right result was obtained.

Attention varies. Human error is a specific action, and specific actions are required to avoid it. It is particularly effective for skill-based, repetitive tasks, which people can usually perform without a lot of conscious thought. But, attention must peak when the risk is greatest, such as when altering a component’s status. Consequently, rigor and care when using self-checking are essential. However, this technique also helps prevent errors when noting, recording, or entering data and performing calculations.

When to Use the Tool:

  • When manipulating or altering grid equipment or controls
  • When entering data into a computer or recording it on a form
  • When performing a calculation
  • When writing switching sequences
  • When revising drawings or procedures using cut-and-paste on a computer or by making handwritten annotations
  • Prior to and during an impending change in equipment status
  • When assembling components that contain similar parts that potentially could be interchanged

How to Use the Tool:

  1. Stop
  • Pause and focus attention on the task’s immediate objective.
  • Eliminate distractions you can control and manage distractions you cannot.
  • Check surroundings for hazards or distractions.
  • Ensure you are prepared for the task: verify that necessary notifications have been made, that you have required procedures and documentation, that proper tools, equipment, and materials are in place, etc.
  • Review and inspect signs, tags, labels, etc., to identify any special circumstances in the work area.
  1. Think
  • Understand the expected outcome when correct action is taken on the correct component.
  • Verify the action is appropriate, given the equipment status.
  • Understand specifically what is to be done before manipulating any component and the expected result(s) of the action.
  • Compare field labels or conditions to guiding document.
  • Consider a contingency if an unexpected result occurs.
  • Consider the expected responses and indications associated with the intended action (e.g., breaker noise, meters, indicating lights).
  • Determine if the task is appropriate for the given conditions.
  1. Act
  • Perform the correct action on the correct component.
  • Without losing eye contact, read the component label while touching the component or component label. (Sometimes called “Touch-Star.”)
  • Compare the component label with the guiding document.
  • Confirm correct component, bus, device, etc., while touching it.
  • Without losing physical contact, perform the action.
  1. Review
  • Verify anticipated result obtained.
  • Perform the contingency, if the expected result does not occur.
  • Notify leadership, as needed.

CAUTION: If visual or physical contact with the object is lost, then start the self-checking process again to ensure the proper component is being manipulated.

At-Risk Practices:

  • Not performing a page-check to verify all the pages are included in the procedure before use.
  • Writing switching without all the pertinent information.
  • Not reviewing a procedure before performing a job.
  • Commencing a procedure without establishing initial conditions.
  • Performing a procedure step without understanding its purpose.
  • Performing a procedure without knowing the critical steps.
  • Skipping steps or segments of a “routine” procedure, because those steps have been “unnecessary” in the past.
  • Using a superseded revision of a procedure.
  • Following a procedure knowing it will cause harm if followed as written.
  • Not submitting feedback on technical accuracy and usability.

References:

With much gratitude, a lot of the above HPT basis comes from Department of Energy (DOE) and Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) research and collaboration, and the source document could be found by clicking here.

This article (you would have to purchase – sorry, it’s not free to share) adds some more specificity to the discussion : Engaging Workers as the Best Defense Against Errors & Error Precursors By Jan K. Wachter and Patrick L. Yorio

Me. I’ve inserted a few twists and clarifications for users and myself.