Second Answer to Matt

Hi Matt. Thank you again for bringing up another comment. I can appreciate your skepticism and I really love that it is so precise. That is exactly what is needed when solving problems with innovation – precisely bringing up issues that seem to be unaddressed or wrong. Let’s start with Matt’s comment first and then I will answer.

Matt commented on New Book–Safety Under response to riskex:

 Oops, what do you know, I made a spelling mistake! I clearly meant ‘learning’! What do you propose to stop me making that mistake again Dayna? I really do think it purely a money making exercise. So deluded!

I think that in this case an analogy will be most useful. There is already a tool that begins to address spelling mistakes in WordPress and most word processing software. The tool began as a spell checker decades ago, but its usefulness has evolved to the point it can recognize grammar issues and more. It underlines words so you can see that the checker thinks you made a mistake and in some cases of very common issues (like spelling “the” as “hte”) it just automatically fixes the problem. You can run spell check before sending an email. You can choose to set your default so it automatically checks before sending an email, etc.

If we had a systematic view of “accidents” like a word processor has a systematic view of spelling errors, then we could put in an accident checker at every project site. It could fix some things automatically, it could inform safety professionals of potential problems (like an exposed cord someone could trip over or icy ladder steps or …). Technology to do this is out there in the world. University students are developing smart sensors and there is simulation software and processes, tools, and technologies as described in the book. Everything a spell checker can do, can also be done in this industry. Mistakes can be caught and fixed.

But, and here is one of the most difficult issues to solve, you still made a mistake – even though you knew better. Or you didn’t pay attention when the checker prompted you and you performed the work and it was delivered with a flaw. That flaw was caused by a person and the oversight system didn’t work perfectly. That is your point, correct?

Well, that is not so hard of a problem to solve conceptually. We just need a better checker. One that is more intelligent than Microsoft Word has developed. One that has a better expert system to draw upon. One that knows and automatically addresses more commonly made mistakes. One that has a more obnoxious clarion call when you make a mistake. One that makes it impossible for you to proceed without fixing it. None of these things are even inventive solutions; they just need someone to perform the work and present it to the world. These are all just incremental improvements. But we would not be at this stage and talking about how to make it even better if software developers had not already started with the concepts and worked to make them viable decades ago.

That is what we need to do now in the field of construction safety. We need to begin to create these “safety checkers” in our industry. And let me be clear. Safety checkers are not magic bullets that will solve all problems. But it is a good start to solving this kind of construction safety problems.

There is so much money to be made by doing the things we suggest in the book. But instead of patenting the ideas and moving forward with building new companies and products, we put this out into the world for everyone to begin to work on. That way it will get finished sooner and more lives will be saved.

There are ideas for new types of ladders in the big book. There are social solutions and technology solutions and software solutions and wireless solutions, new tools, new methodologies, and new communications strategies.  There are … well, hundreds of money making ideas for ANYONE who wants to take them and run. If we wanted this to be “purely a money making exercise” then I promise you we would not have given away the information on how to make millions (maybe billions) for the price of a book.  What we want, Matt, is to save lives. That has to begin before it can be improved. Maybe the first products will only do part of the job; but they will save some lives. Those projects and their financial success will simulate other people to make improvements and others to build new and better products because now people are thinking of the problems in new ways.

We are only three people. Hundreds need to participate in the vision or develop a better future and begin to work towards it with practical real solutions. We are offering this as thought leaders out into the world to light a fire and create a call to action. We hope you and other deep thinking people will refine on the ideas and save lives at  exponentially greater numbers. We don’t have all of the answers, but we could if we just take the next step and then the next and if we think about the “impossible to solve problems” in new ways and with greater responsibility. We have gone far enough to prove that it is now possible. It will take a dedicated commitment from many, many people to refine and bring it to life.

I hope I answered your question in a not too theoretical manner. If you have more comments, I sincerely welcome them, Matt. You bring up good points and are helping to shape the conversations in important ways. Thank you. I absolutely mean that!!!

3 thoughts on “Second Answer to Matt

  1. If you used this crazy logic in safety and risk (and we can’t) then we will still have errors, mistakes and incidents we will just identify and be able to address the cause quickly. You cannot design an engineering solution to prevent people from making mistakes.

    Let’s stop and think, for just one minute, about the process of designing this ludicrous invention that you propose . Will the inventors get it right the first time or will they use trial and error to get it right? Does trial and error involve mistakes along the way so they learn?

    In your world of “there is an engineering solution for every conceivable problem” is there any learning?

    Crazy stuff guys. I know you’ve invested a lot, written the book, promoted it, been on television programs and there is a fair amount of ‘sunk cost’. Understandably, you won’t want to let this idea go away, but I do encourage you to stop for a short while and think really carefully about the idea that we can prevent all mistakes.

    I recommend reading Paul Slovic’s The Feeling of Risk, New Perspectives on Risk Perception.

    • Hi Rob Sams. Nice to “meet” you. POINT ONE: Oh, I’ve never heard of Paul Slovic’s book before and am interested in reading it – “The Feeling of Risk, New Perspectives on Risk Perception”. Nice recommendation to us all.

      I’d like to comment on each of your important points. TWO: “…we will still have errors, mistakes and incidents we will just identify and be able to address the cause quickly.” RESPONSE: Yes, we will still make errors along the way until we get it right (perfectly safe). We are not suggesting otherwise. The problems are so many and so complex and so entrenched that none of us are going to predict all of them. But if the brightest, most passionate people get involved and begin to retire uncertainty and prove out the possibilities, then we will eventually get there.

      THREE “You cannot design an engineering solution to prevent people from making mistakes.” RESPONSE: Ah, that is one of the main points of the book. Yes, you can design an engineering solution to prevent people from making mistakes. It has been successfully done in other industries and it can be done in construction. We are at this momentous confluence of technology, scientific and applied scientific discoveries, leadership, and tools. Bits and pieces of each of them exist already. No one has put them together for this purpose. We have to begin to fashion them for the purpose of construction safety. And when we do this, we will have begun well.

      Now, having said that, it will not be easy and there will be errors, mistakes, omissions, and incidents along the way. It is a huge job. It will take thousands of people. It will mean new businesses will be started. It will take a major paradigm shift. It will mean that new tools, systems and ideas must be developed. I hope no one out there thinks we are saying that we have one solution right now that will solve all problems in the construction industry that cause harm. First of all, we don’t think there is ONE PERFECT solution.

      We also don’t think our way is the only, exclusive way. In fact, the work of Paul Slovic will add interesting new information to the paradigm shift and strengthen the change movement. I don’t know why Mr. Slovic wrote his book, but we wrote our book because we were tired of people doing the same old things and achieving the same results and thinking it is the only way possible.

      FOUR: “In your world of ‘there is an engineering solution for every conceivable problem’ is there any learning?” RESPONSE: I’m not sure where you get the idea that every solution will be engineering related. Many of the solutions will happen through the social sciences. Others will happen through tool improvements, education/training and management tools and … And I am unsure what you mean when you as “is there any learning”. Of course there is learning that will need to happen. That seems obvious, so I’m pretty sure I am just not getting your point. For that I apologize profusely. Please could you expound on this point. I would love to understand what you mean.

      FIVE: “Crazy stuff guys… but I do encourage you to stop for a short while and think really carefully about the idea that we can prevent all mistakes.” RESPONSE: Great things happen in human history because people dared to begin and because they persisted against great odds. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr.:

    • “This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”
    • “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”
    • “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”
    • “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
    • “There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
    • And finally, the words of Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

      We are going to keep going with our thoughtful, committed ideas because we deeply care about each construction worker going home safe every single day.

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