Plane Crashes and other Errors

Plane Crashes and other Errors

Just finished reading ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell, and there was some interesting information about plane crashes, how they happen etc in the chapter called ‘The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes’.

Here are some revealing quotes:

“In a typical crash, for example, the weather is poor – not terrible, necessarily, but bad enough that the pilot feels a little bit more stressed than usual.  In on overwhelming number of crashes, the plane is behind schedule, so the pilots are hurrying.  In 52 percent of crashes, the pilot at the time of the accident has been awake for twelve hours or more, meaning that he is tired and not thinking sharply.  And 44 percent of the time, the two pilots have never flown together before, so they’re not comfortable with each other.

‘A typical accident involves seven consecutive human errors.’

Gladwell quotes a number of researched crashes including Korean Air 801 where fatigue was a factor.

I am not scaremongering here, and we absolutely know that air travel is probably the most safe way to travel – but what it does remind us, is that if we are working in industries and/or jobs where human safety and accuracy are involved (which is most – especially the accuracy part) then we should be aware of some of the solutions and strategies to adopt around lack of sleep, long hours at work etc.

Figures also indicate that many interns, doctors, medical staff on shift work etc are being overworked to the point of inaccuracy and danger.  Longer shifts over many hours render the workers in a similar frame of mind as being drunk on the job, where they are no longer capable of making important, accurate and fast decisions.  A bit sobering actually.

So here are some tactics:

  • Learn to power-nap.  There are many CDs and hypnosis recordings etc that will help you if you are lacking sleep.  A 23 minute sleep, power nap (or nanna-nap he he) can make a very big difference to freshen you up for a few more hours.  Not a replacement, but a strategy when you know there’s not a lot you can do about your shift or tired feelings.
  • Get Someone to Check Your Work if you are working in these conditions.  Might seem laborious or embarrassing, but you might also find that your co-workers appreciate you admitting you might have a problem.  I guarantee they will have the same problem.  You could even systemize the checking, so that it becomes part of your safe and accurate workplace.
  • Eat correctly on long shifts and take good breaks, where you might go for a walk in nature, even for 15 minutes, to straighten out your brain a bit.
  • Quote the facts and figures at work to support your very good arguments around looking after yourself and your co-workers.
  • Tell people when you really are exhausted, that way everyone can help if possible, and reduce the risks.

Sleep is vitally important for accuracy and safety.


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