Timely reporting of errors is critical

May 1, 2006 By    

In this business, accidents happen. Accidents that happen as a result of mistakes are almost always discovered at some later date, at which point the problem must then be confronted and resolved.

This is often unpleasant for all involved in the resolution process. When the problems finally do come to light, the bad outcome that could have been prevented has run its course and matters are worse.

 John McCoy, LP/Gas Magazine Columnist
John McCoy, LP/Gas Magazine Columnist

This failure to report a mistake in a timely manner has several root causes. Often the mistake is not recognized until it is too late. Sometimes the one making the mistake is aware, but is too embarrassed, afraid or ashamed to report it to a supervisor, instead deciding to remain silent until it is too late.

Admitting a mistake and reporting it to a supervisor is a difficult thing to do. But it’s also a valuable and necessary thing to do in order to correct mistakes before they cause injuries or accidents.

Problems usually get worse the longer they are allowed to go unreported. Sooner or later, the mistake will be found out. It’s better to find it before it results in a catastrophic injury.

The trick is to understand the rewards of promptly coming forward so a mistake can be corrected in a timely manner. Early reporting of mistakes should be a proactive goal for any company.

Front line employees need to know that mistakes must be reported immediately. That requires an atmosphere of trust. If employees get the message that no mistakes will be tolerated, they’ll likely hide their mistakes or refuse to own up to them.

An approach that encourages the timely reporting and correcting of mistakes is critical to developing a safety program that reduces the number of accidents and injuries. This is not to say that standards on safety and compliance with company practices should be ignored. To the contrary, these standards are essential to any well-run business.

However, employees should recognize that recurring mistakes would eventually spell doom for continued employment with the company.

When management encourages employees to come forward it reduces the potential for accidents, injuries and subsequent claims against the company. Now, who could complain about that outcome?

Accurate record keeping will assist in making the reporting of potential problems more of a normal activity. An important part of effective reporting is not only the information reported, but also the independent verification of that information from someone other than the reporter.

The manner in which the report is received and documented should allow for a clear description of the problem, what has been done so far and what action item is requested to fix the problem.

This action item should be brought to the attention of a person designated to monitor field problems. This person’s job is to ensure timely completion and documentation that will be accessible at some later point.

Too often, the recording of the correction of a problem is done and the paperwork is not retrievable. Given the technology available in the marketplace today this is not acceptable. Records that can’t be produced are looked upon with great skepticism in the legal arena.

A wise man once said that the way to success is to address your problems first and everything else will take care of itself. Make these words part of your company’s business practice.

John McCoy is the president of McCoy & Hofbauer, S.C. and specializes in the representation of propane companies. He can be reached at 800-599-8300 or jmccoy@mh-law.us

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