David Ramsay gives his thoughts on ‘weak signals’:
I have always been interested in how apparently minor discrepancies in systems, whether processes or safety, can often be clues to much larger problems in organisations. Yet because these are minor indicators or weak signals they are ignored. My interest in these goes back forty years to when I was head of quality in a food manufacturing company. In the interim years, I have seen similar evidence in the rail, offshore oil and gas, shipping sectors to mention only a few. Next week on Wednesday 18th October, I am speaking at the Energy Institute in London https://www.energyinst.org and my theme will be ‘Identifying and Analysing Weak Signals to Prevent Disasters’. I shall be using an example of how missing weak signals led to a fatality in an explosives manufacturing plant. I’ll also be demonstrating how the Tripod Incident Analysis system http://publishing.energyinst.org/tripod/beta can be used to do a rapid analysis of these minor signals, so that the failed barriers and underlying causes can be identified so that immediate corrective action can be taken to prevent major incidents. Quoting some websites, a typical comment about Tripod Beta is “It is mostly used for high risk, complex incidents, since it is a very extensive and detailed method” and while this may be true, I hope to demonstrate that there are quick and easy ways to use the approach to analyse these all important weak signals.