Post-Holiday Error Traps – Coming back to work safely

As we’ve discussed previously, error traps increase the probability that we may make a mistake. During and after the holidays, many of us get some well-deserved time off with our families and friends. When we come back to work, our risk to get hurt can actually go up!


Hopefully you will be refreshed, recharged, and ready to go… BUT the first days back after a holiday break (or any extended time off) can contain a dangerous trap that drives errors and mistakes that could lead to fatalities, serious or life altering injuries, or damage to assets. The trap is associated with “the first working day back” after time off.

Let’s take a minute to discuss some critical elements of “the first working day back” trap.

  • Sometimes it’s hard to get back to our work routines after our holidays
    • We can forget things we would normally remember
    • We try to do things in an easier way, which drives shortcuts
    • Since we didn’t use a procedure before, we don’t think we need one now
  • Distractions are high
    • People want to talk about what they did on their holidays
    • We may still be thinking about the holidays and not effectively seeing and managing risks and hazards
    • The kids are back in school and we tend to focus on getting back to our routine at home instead of our routine at work
    • Our brains have not had to deal with typical work distractions and may need some time to adapt to the work environment
  • System conditions have changed
    • Systems may have been shut down, improved and changed or altered over the holidays
    • Systems may operate differently than we remember
    • There may be a new process involved due to a changeover in the holiday period
  • You may be working with different people
    • Crew members may be different
    • Contractors may be different
    • Management may be different
    • You or someone in your group could be new to the job

Sometimes we want to jump back right into those old routines without considering all the changes that have taken place in the system, in our minds, in ourselves and in our capabilities.

So, what can you do?

  • Take the time to verbalize your actions out loud before you take an action;
  • Pull out a process and follow it step by step (especially if there have been changes); and
  • Stop and seek out help whenever your gut tells you that something may be wrong or is not the way you expect it to be.

Make this your new paradigm for how you’ll perform better next year than you did the year before! If there’s a trap you’d like to hear more about, please let us know.

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