Monday, April 18, 2011

Training Matters: Difference between Success and Failure

In 2008, a fishing boat named the Alaska Ranger sunk in the Bering Sea. Its sinking touched off the most extraordinary rescue mission in the history of the US Coast Guard. In her new book, Deadliest Sea, author Kalee Thompson describes the circumstances that caused the accident and the heroic efforts of the Coast Guard to save the crew.
One of her findings was that many aspects of the tragedy could have been prevented had the captain and crew gone through proper training. One note Thompson cites is that though boat crews are required to conduct monthly safety meetings, these usually involved watching a video or talking through what they might do in case of accident. They never actually performed any safety drills.
Also, the boat had safety vests for the crew, but for the sake of convenience, they were stored away in a tough-to-reach part of the ship. Once the Alaska Ranger started sinking, the crew nabbed the vests only just in time. Even then, they were of limited use because crew members hadn’t practiced putting them on and almost none of them fit properly. No one had ever bothered to check. And though the ship was equipped with all the proper technology (GPS, Emergency beacons, etc.), no one knew how to use it. As Thompson says, “the technology is pretty good. The thing that’s lacking is the training to use it well. “ Thompson’s point? A little bit of foresight and training would have gone a long way to avert a terrible situation.  

Though the glass industry has its hazards, the safety risks aren’t quite as drastic as in commercial fishing (the deadliest industry in the United States, according to safety experts). But be sure, the moment of truth is coming at some point to your business. Imagine these scenarios:
  • A new project gets announced in your market. You’d love to get the job. It would mean the difference between hitting your yearly goals or laying off staff. But it calls for material and techniques you’ve never used before. With no one qualified to do the work, you have to pass it up and it goes to your biggest competitor.
  • Your most important customer calls you and tells you there’s a problem with the job you just finished for him. When you check it out, you discover that a new, untrained worker completely botched the installation and it will have to be re-done. All your profit is out the window as you eat the cost to correct his mistakes.
  • A key employee mishandles a lite of glass and is severely injured. He hadn’t been properly trained in handling glass and now, not only are you on the hook for a workman’s comp claim, you’re down a worker with important project deadlines approaching.
Training matters. On a fishing boat, it can mean the difference between life and death; for your business, it can mean the difference between success and failure. The NGA and WDDA can help through,, educational webinars, and other resources. Don’t wait for a life-altering event. Make the investment now.

Matt Rumbaugh
Senior Manager, Education and Training

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