View source: Doug Pontsler and Rob Fisher

Learn how to identify traps and triggers, and how to control them proactively before incidents occur.

Visual Literacy is the capacity to recognize, analyze and describe hazards as it is applied to occupational safety. Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) deploys a myriad of tools to identify and reduce risks. Used together they give EHS professionals a potent package to improve workplace safety and health. Visual Literacy and HOP share one principalBoth accept our propensity for error, often called “human fallibility.” To minimize error, both pay attention to error traps and triggersincident precursors. 

The WITH Model 

Four categories make up the WITH model: Work Environment, Individual Capabilities, Task Demands, and Human Nature. These categories are replete with error traps and incident precursors that appear on any task you may do, including:  

Work Environment: General influences on task performance related to workplace, organizational and cultural conditions: 

  • Distractions and interruptions
  • Changes and departures from routine
  • Confusing displays and controls
  • Identical and adjacent displays or controls
  • Out-of-service warning systems
  • Workarounds
  • Poor condition of equipment and tools
  • Poor access or equipment layout.

Individual Capabilities: Physical and emotional capabilities of an individual related to a specific task: 

  • Tiredness or illness
  • Poor attitude or poor behavior
  • Physical limitations
  • Unwillingness to coach or challenge
  • Unfamiliarity with the task
  • Lack of knowledge
  • Inexperience
  • New techniques not used before.

Task Demands: Specific mental, physical, or team requirements of a task: 

  • Time pressure (rushing)
  • High workload
  • Repetitive work; monotony
  • Simultaneous; multiple tasks
  • Excessive communication requirements
  • Confusing procedures and vague guidance; unclear standards.

Human Nature: Generic characteristics (including personality diversity combinations, aka E-Colors) of human beings that make us more vulnerable to errors under certain conditions: 

  • Distress
  • Habit patterns
  • Assumptions
  • Mental shortcuts (biases)
  • Fatigue
  • Tunnel vision (lack of big picture)
  • Boredom
  • Difficulty seeing one’s own errors
  • Overconfidence

The Work Environment can be either physical (where we typically see risk) or social (two people who don’t like each other can inject other traps into the task). There needs to be a match between Individual Capabilities (the capacity of this person on this task at this time) and Task Demands (what this task requires of the individual or the team for successful completion). Human Nature (the inherent strengths and potential limiters that occur just because we are human) needs to be addressed to understand how the average human would react to the traps and precursors. 

Once error traps and incident precursors are identified, a suite of error reduction (HOP) tools and techniques reduce the likelihood of these traps and precursors leading to near misses, harm, and serious injuries and fatalities. 

Visual Literacy increases an individual’s skill at seeing, interpreting and communicating tasks, work environment, human nature, and individual traps and precursors before they possibly cause harm or damage.