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By Randy Logsdon

SLAM RISKS is a tool that MSHA provides as a field-level risk-assessment instrument. Like many such tools, SLAM serves as an acronym – a reminder for the recommended risk-assessment steps:

  • Stop.
  • Look.
  • Analyze.
  • Manage.

Recently, I stumbled across another application for the same acronym. My mission was to describe the practical application of a concept that I think is important from both a personal and from an institutional perspective. Most folks are familiar with the wisdom behind the phrase, “a wise man learns from his mistakes.” Consider however, how utterly brilliant one may appear by learning from the mistakes of others. So the concept of learning from the experience of others was (at least in my mind) the genesis of a new application for SLAM.

S – Share.
Many companies have a means of sharing information about incidents and mishaps, whether the event resulted in injury, damage to property, or if the event was a near-injury or damage. Find a way to share the story. With Internet and e-mail, it’s fairly easy to share what happened quickly to a large and diverse audience. Names of those involved are unimportant. The identified causes, the errors and the mitigating factors, however, are important. MSHA Fatalgrams are an example of mass sharing of important information, but how often does the process end with just sharing?

On a personal level, the shared experience of one worker relayed to another or to a group can have an even more profound effect, especially if delivered with some passion – when one can place himself in the shoes of the storyteller.

L – Learn.

It is interesting to watch the faces and hear the comments of men and women in a group when the story of a mishap is shared. Heads will nod; the look of understanding presents itself. The blanks – the untold portions of the story – are filled in. Questions are asked: Why didn’t they do this? Why didn’t they have that? What were they thinking? These are all signs of learning. But then there is the comment, “That couldn’t happen here . . .” (for whatever reason). This may be one of the most perilous statements because it’s a sign of complacency. That leads to the next step.

A – Apply.
There are really two steps here. The first is application in the form of translation from circumstances that may be completely foreign. It’s really an extension of the Learning step. How does what occurred at a surface location apply underground? How does what happened in the plant apply in the office? How does what occurred at home or on the highway apply to any work environment? How does this apply to me? Sometimes the answer is obvious – there is a direct translation. Often, one must dig deeper (even speculate) into potential root causes. Were their time constraints? Was education or training sufficient? Were there other procedural or institutional factors?

There is also a practical application. How will you change the way you proceed to do your daily work based on what you’ve learned? Will each member of the team commit to that change? Everything to this point has been academic. Through this step, real accident prevention takes place.

M – Manage.
The final step is the institutionalization changes identified in the application step. Implementing changes may require new tools or equipment. It may require changes in standard operating procedures or even policy. What unintended consequences of the change may need to be managed? Education and training are likely to be a part of managing the practical application. Ensuring the follow-through on commitments to the changes is also important to the management step.

MSHA has asked us each to SLAM RISKS in the workplace. You now have a model that may be useful to SLAM the harmful, unplanned and undesired events we call accidents.

You can learn more about MSHA’s SLAM RISKS initiative on MSHA’s website