The Folly of Visual Inspection and the TSA
I’ve never been a big fan of the TSA or any form of visual inspection. I wasn’t a fan, either, of the automated x-ray technology that was used in (and then removed from) American airports while being banned in Europe over safety concerns.
Relying on 100% human visual inspection doesn’t work because, well, we’re human. We get bored, we get distracted, and our brains often see what we expect to see rather than the actual signals that are sent from our eyes. Visual inspection often fails whether it’s Toyota workers inspecting the paint on a new truck or a pharmacist double checking a medication.
Speaking of pharmacies, I have a prescription medication that is a liquid. It’s larger than the 100 ml / 3.4 oz TSA limit.
Each time I have traveled, probably 10 different airport security encounters, I have taken the liquid out of my bag and put it in a bin as to be quite obvious and quite separate from my allowed one-quart bag with toothpaste, etc. I carry the doctor’s prescription with me in case I am asked about my oversized liquid as it goes through the conveyor and the x-ray machine.
NOT ONCE has a TSA agent ever asked me about my large liquid. Maybe they know it’s a prescription, but you’d also think they’d at least once acknowledge it or ask me, “Hey, what’s with that large liquid?”
It doesn’t do anything to increase my faith in the TSA and it certainly doesn’t increase my faith in the outdated idea of inspecting in quality.
If we’re asking employees, in a factory or hospital, to rely on visual inspection as the way of ensuring quality, we have to realize we are setting them up for occasional failure. Yet, when that system fails, why does the individual so often get thrown under the bus instead of the leaders who were responsible for the system?
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