In a previous article (August 2007), we covered the purpose of live-fire training, which is to reinforce and expand our firefighting knowledge base and skill level, with the goal of enhancing our fireground safety. We will switch gears this time and discuss human error as it relates to preparing for...
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In a previous article (August 2007), we covered the purpose of live-fire training, which is to reinforce and expand our firefighting knowledge base and skill level, with the goal of enhancing our fireground safety. We will switch gears this time and discuss human error as it relates to preparing for and conducting structural live-fire training.
Researcher James Reason, in his book Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents, describes the main principles of error management:
- The best people can sometimes make the worst errors.
- Short-lived mental states — preoccupation, distraction, forgetfulness and inattention — are the last and least manageable part of the error sequence.
- People will always make errors and commit violations, but we can change their working conditions to make unsafe acts less likely.
- Blaming people for their errors, though emotionally satisfying, will have little or no effect on their future fallibility.
- Errors are largely unintentional. It's difficult for management to control what people didn't intend to do in the first place.
- Errors arise from informational problems. They are best tackled by improving the available information, either in the person's head or in the workplace.
- Violations are social or motivational problems. They are best addressed by changing people's norms, beliefs, attitudes and culture, as well as by improving the credibility, applicability, availability and accuracy of procedures.
- Violations increase the likelihood of violators committing subsequent errors, which in turn are more likely to have damaging consequences.
The latest edition of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1403, Standard on Live-Fire Training Evolutions, was published in 2007, so if you have an earlier edition, go to www.nfpa.org now and purchase a copy. Every instructor should own one. Read and understand this document — this is essential if you are involved in the serious business of live-fire training. Place it into practice.
One important objective of live-fire training is for the instructor in charge to identify, plan for and manage human error that can (and will) occur during the live-fire training process. The details found in NFPA 1403 include setting up a number of training-ground redundancies that specifically account for the potential of human error to occur during the evolutions. The prudent instructor in charge is also smart enough to realize that he or she is subject to making errors. The most qualified fire instructors know they need the assistance of the best live-fire training management team possible.
Preparing to use an acquired structure for live-fire training is a work-intensive project. Never underestimate the breadth of experience required to effectively prepare the building and conduct the evolutions for effective live-fire training. To maximize safety, potential hazards must be minimized and an acceptable risk environment produced for the students. This is the responsibility of the instructor in charge.
One personal characteristic of a prudent instructor in charge is the recognition of one's own limitations as it relates to preparing the building and conducting the training evolutions to maximize student safety. Perhaps an instructor, a friend of mine, sums up the situation best. Every now and then, we get together and discuss recent events in the news. This includes things that have gone seriously wrong in the field. When discussing training activities that have gone awry, my friend usually points out what "Dirty Harry" once said: "A man's got to know his limitations."