Safety Spotlight

June 8, 2000

Erosion of Accuracy

Consistent training equals consistent procedures

By Mike Mooney, Vice President, Valley Oil Company

June 2000

During one memorable inspection I asked the line person to perform a test to detect particulate contamination using his MiniMonitor kit (aka, Millipore). After watching him fumble around with the kit, I said, "You don't know how to do this, do you?" He said "no".

Prior to asking him to perform the test, I noticed that for the last six months the pristine A-1 rated test wafers on file in the office had his name on them. How could this be? (The procedure involved carefully removing the test wafer from the plastic monitor with the tweezers and stirring it around it a bucket of jet fuel.)

This is one of the most common problems I encounter and what I call erosion of accuracy — situations in which a line person is performing a daily task using equipment incorrectly. When asked about it, they respond, "That's the way I was told to do it." This may be true. Often, rather than go back to the "manual" and follow proper training procedures, the line person assigned with training will rely on their own acquired or developed knowledge of the skill or task. Their instruction may have been flawed or, over time, a vital step required to successfully complete the task may have been forgotten or left out. Because the instructor didn't go back to basics and follow a printed step-by-step procedure, they passed incorrect information to the next generation of line personnel.

Don't Assume. Check the routine procedures employees follow to insure that they are being done properly. Ask technicians to demonstrate their proficiency. Ask the designated instructor to train you so you can test their knowledge. Get outside help. Call your fuel supplier and others to discuss how to insure that things are done properly.

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Mike Mooney is vice president, sales and technical services for Valley Oil Company, a fuel marketer based in Salem, OR. He's a speaker for NATA's Line Service Supervisor Training Seminars, a member of ASTM, and a pilot. Contact Mike at (503) 362-3633 or [email protected].