Three ways to avoid that fate:
- Believe the data. Officers aboard the Titanic heard iceberg warnings well before the liner struck one, but they didn’t act appropriately.
Likewise, in the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant leaks of 1979, warnings overlooked during the recovery process caused further damage. And in both the Columbia and Challenger space shuttle disasters, operators received warnings of danger and blew them off.
- Don’t overextend safety features. Engineers and designers build in features to maximize performance, and they also include ways to minimize harm in case of malfunction.
But designers can’t anticipate everything, and even if they did, somebody would thwart safety features or push a design past its limits. Your job is to test boundaries only after calculating risks.
- Train for what “can’t happen.” It’s easy to accept it when you’re told that bad things are only a remote possibility. But that’s as bad as being afraid to try anything.
Besides training your people in how to handle anticipated snafus, brief them on how they should handle an emergency you’re told will never happen.