ORM in Absentia


Many of the mishap and hazard reports received at the Naval Safety Center from the afloat community (surface ships and submarines) have some common human-related factors; most notably among them is the lack of proper supervision. The root cause behind these incidents have been debated amongst scholars, leaders, and Sailors for many years (i.e., supervisors are overloaded with collateral duties and paperwork to watch all of their subordinates all of the time, Sailors are not as well trained today as they used to be, millennials have a different perspective than their predecessors, etc.). While all of these reasons can be debated further as to their legitimacy, it is important to first clarify what lack of proper supervision really means and its impact on fleet readiness.

Some may see that statement and assume it means hand-walking a Sailor through each step of a maintenance requirement card (MRC) or standing over the Sailor’s shoulder while they are on watch. In certain cases, these steps many be justified (such as a freshly qualified maintenance person conducting a specifically difficult check for the first time). However, for obvious reasons, this approach is not always required, desired, or achievable – nor should it be. But there are some simple steps each leader should take to ensure things are being done correctly, even when they cannot be present on the deckplates.

One of the many benefits of working at the Naval Safety Center is the interaction with counterparts across the other warfare areas. As a career surface warfare officer, my knowledge level of daily workings within the air, sub, and special warfare communities is limited to just a general understanding of what they do. Since arriving here two years ago I have had several “ah-ha” moments where I wondered why my community does not do things the same way. For example, the submarine community uses night orders while in port in addition to underway. Moreover, these orders outline every maintenance and troubleshooting effort across the command so everyone, from the commanding officer down, is aware of the five W’s (who, what, where, when, and why). Not only does this instill a culture of awareness and coordination among the duty section personnel, it also empowers the command duty officer during their nightly rounds and oversee these events while they are happening.

In addition to daily night orders, another method of providing adequate leadership when the leader cannot be present is to use the supervisor’s quality and quantity control (SQ2C) method. Simply put, a leader can increase the level of safety assurance by injecting a quality/quantity control checkpoint prior to the start of a planned procedure. Basically, every maintenance and preservation task has three components: training, tools, and time. Ensuring each Sailor has the quality and quantity of these three T’s prior to commencing their work can prevent a large number of mishaps.

While the SQ2C method may appear to resemble the well-known material maintenance management (3M) spot-check, it is less official and more of a 10-minute discussion on expectations. For example, the Sailor carrying out the task must have been properly trained. The questions a leader should ask at the SQ2C checkpoint prior to giving their consent are: Why are you doing this? How will you do it? If the reply is “I’ll just follow the MRC,” then the leader must ensure the Sailor fully understands the procedure and is capable of executing it without any confusion.

Next, the Sailor needs to have the proper tools, parts, and materials required to do the job correctly. What are you using to do this? A quick review of these items by the leader can prevent some simple mistakes; such as using the correct protective gear, type of grease, or size of chain.

Finally, the Sailor needs ample time to do the procedure. What is the next event you have today? If it is a 60-minute check and they have watch in 45 minutes, are they going to rush through the steps and possibly skip something important? How much sleep did you get last night? If they had the mid-watch, rolled right into morning quarters, then sat through two meetings before coming to the SQ2C checkpoint, then maybe the risk-management numbers are not in their favor and the task should be delayed or given to someone more clear-minded.

The keys to preventing future mishaps due to a lack of proper supervision are increased communication and coordination. If the Sailor and the leader are communicating (SQ2C checkpoint) about the pending task and the various leaders are coordinating their efforts at a higher level (night orders), then the entire command will benefit through the preservation of combat readiness and the saving of lives.

ON THE WEB: Navy Self-Assessment Reporting – http://www.public.navy.mil/NAVSAFECEN/Pages/OSH/nsar-index.aspx

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