Never Shoot a Hostage

What the heck has not shooting a hostage got to do with safety? = everything!!

Companies and Hostage Rescue Teams (HRTs) that have a strong training and competency culture work safely and don’t “shoot hostages”. The unrelenting pursuit of excellence.

Breaking It Down

Selection = HRTs must have the right DNA. HRTs have some kind of selection process. So too, companies should hire workers who are trainable and able to receive and understand training, whatever it may be. They don’t need to be rocket scientists though, unless you’re designing a rocket of course!!

What needs to be trained = HRTs fully understand what skill sets are required (i.e., shoot straight, blow shit up, gain entry etc. etc.) So too, companies should understand what kind of training is required for the tasks completed and any currency requirements, i.e. your training & competency matrix. Some training will be mandated, like MEWP, cranes, forklift etc. and will have a requirement for currency that must be followed.

Training versus competency = HRTs train and train and train but may not reach a level of competency sometime after training has begun. Just because you are trained does not mean you are competent / safe to complete the task. So too, companies need to understand this and ensure workers are supervised and then assessed as competent by an experienced supervisor for high-risk tasks/machinery. The golden rule for high-risk task training = repetition, repetition, repetition x 100s.

Testing = HRTs test specific skill sets often, probably a bit harder core than a company but the principal remains the same. How often testing is completed depends on the level of risk associated with the specific task/equipment. So too, companies should ensure testing is realistic and based on real work / world conditions. Both theory and practical testing may be appropriate. i.e., to blow shit up safely you’ll probably need to do both …. just saying.

Supervision and mentoring = HRTs have a strong junior and senior leader driven culture that imparts knowledge readily and naturally. A mentor driven approach but one that embraces feedback. So too should companies, where supervisors and middle managers provide ongoing and consistent supervision and mentoring, especially to new workers who may be considered higher risk (young workers) until they are competent, especially for higher risk tasks.

Internal and external self-assessment = the ability to learn is critical. By learning we continually improve the training and competency system and processes within it. Assessing both internally and externally provides validation of how well (or not) we are getting our shit done.

Lessons Learned / Continual Improvement = HRTs always evaluate their performance, even when things go right. Developing a strong lessons learned approach to all areas of the business is not just critical to safety success but also business success. The day you think you know everything and have nothing left to learn is the day you die. No matter how competent in your chosen field you may have become, we can always be better!


Because we are not into safety clutter, this is the end, but in summary.

Companies that have a strong training and competency driven culture are inherently safe. A well trained and highly competent workforce is the cornerstone of a safe working organisation.
HRTs never shoot a hostage and there is a reason why. Will your organisation ever shoot a hostage?

Good luck and get after it!

Graham Mahuika

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