WFC News

Normalized Deviation

The other day at an incident, I watch a veteran member of our department back up a vehicle without a backer even though there was a person in the passenger seat (two other members stood next to me when it happened). I walked over to the vehicle and had the driver stop and the passenger got out and finished backing the vehicle.  I asked the passenger, a member with less than 5 years on, why he didn’t get out and serve as a backer?  He looked at me and said “I wasn’t asked to”.  My next question was, “Did you ask the diver if a backer was needed?” The answer was “no”. I asked why and the passenger could not give me an answer.   After discussing with the two about the necessity of a backer, along with quoting the policy, I was approached by one of the people who, was standing next to me when this whole situation started to unfold.  That person very proudly said to me “I watch him do that all the time”.  I looked at that person and asked, wait for it, “Why haven’t you said anything?” I did not get a response and the person just shrugged and walked away.

How many times have you watched (or done) someone pull hose, start a saw, set up a folda- tank without gloves?  Watched someone back up an apparatus without a backer?  Did you take the time to help them back up, or remind them to put on gloves? Humans, by nature don’t like confrontation or correction, so we have a tendency to take a, “Well he should know better” attitude and just let it slide.  We, personally, don’t want to be told we are doing something wrong, so we don’t tell anyone they are doing it wrong or, in this case unsafe.  If you saw one of your brothers or sisters firefighters headed into a burning building without their helmet you would stop them right?  Why not mention the other things? 

The above scenarios are what the Fire Service Safety Community calls “Normalized Deviation” As we ignore these things they become the everyday normal.  Then when something happens we think back, and wonder, “Gosh, maybe he should have…….?” How would you feel if someone got run over, pinned or otherwise injured by the person who “Never uses a backer”.  Would you step up and say, “You know I watch him do that all the time and never said anything, I might have been able to prevent that” Or would you think, “He should have really used a backer, he never does and now look what happened”?

In the fire service we never do anything by ourselves on the firegound during an incident.  We use phrases like “I got your back”, “On your Six Brother” or “You go we go”.  Then when the incident is over we lose that cohesiveness.  Why don’t we carry that concept from beginning to end?  Wouldn’t you want someone to remind you if you have forgotten to do something simple that could keep you safe from something bigger? 

So, the next time you notice someone, anyone, doing something that is unsafe, no matter how little or simple it is, take the time to give them a friendly reminder.  We can only stop “Normalized Deviation”, if we don’t allow it to be “The Normal.”    

Posted: Dec 12, 2013,
Comments: 0,
Rate this article:
No rating
Please login or register to post comments.

Theme picker

Search News Articles