When Do You Step Up to the Plate? Evidence of a Lack of a Just Culture…

ImageI made a post on a forum today about an activity which was obviously contrary to what agencies should be teaching and also contrary to what is considered best practice. Develop your skills, attitude and experience at a pace with which you are comfortable with and are not specifically task loaded at any point doing basic ‘business as usual’ skills – do not cut corners to allow you to teach something sooner than you should be doing so, you place both yourself and your future charge’s lives at risk.

However, I wondered what the subject of the post would think if they knew that I had mentioned their case, but not their details, and made me think about a “Just Culture’ again.

I did a quick online search for “Definition Just Culture” and at the bottom of the first page was this link from the CAA which I thought brought out some useful points.

The CAA definition of a Just Culture states:

• individuals are not punished for actions, omissions or decisions taken by them that are commensurate with their experience and training but which result in a reportable event; but

• gross negligence, wilful violations and destructive acts are not tolerated.

And then goes on to say 

The guidance calls on employers to avoid disciplinary action against employees which might in future inhibit their staff from reporting incidents – except where action is needed to ensure safety.

The former point about violations I have already covered here and here, but the latter point is something which I believe is missing in the culture we have in sport diving.  There are a multitude of activities which go on, both at the instructor and ‘user’ level which are not ‘best practice’, and there are too many people waiting in the wings to throw rocks at those who make mistakes which means the incidents never get reported. [In this context, disciplinary action could also be considered public slanging matches over who did what when for non-instructional divers.]  Furthermore, there are instructors who are being forced to break standards (not so much in this country but it does happen) because of commercial pressures to complete training because the sport has become a ‘cheap and now’ sport even though the skills that being taught are life support skills. e.g. getting someone to lie on their medical form so that they can go diving [personal feedback from a trusted diver, because they had too many ‘Yes’ compared to ‘No’], or go diving without adequate safety and medical cover when teaching a course.

We need to create an environment where we can recognise that:

  • people make mistakes and in the main it is the user that is causing the problem, not the equipment failing,
  • that ‘sub-optimal’ behaviours need to be correct or coached out, and that, finally,
  • negligent or below standard behaviour is punished, and publicly punished.

So, how do we create an environment where people are able to positively critique sub-optimal practices and unsafe/’illegal’ activities without being seen to be the dive police stepping in?

I’ll leave you with a thought. Your buddy has set up his kit and you notice there is a mistake with the configuration that may cause you or him a problem if an emergency action is required? Do you say something to him? You now notice a member of your diving group has made the same mistake on his configuration, do you say something to him? Now, finally, you notice a complete stranger on the boat, not a club-type dive where everyone is known, make the same mistake, would you go up to them and say something…?

Safe Diving…

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