I saw a large ad in the paper Friday that reminded me of this blog posting (link above). Be sure to click on the link to see a picture of what I'm talking about here.
The newspaper ad, for Wausau Insurance, had a similar photo, but it showed a suit hanging on a hanger on the fire sprinkler, a definite no-no.
The ad reads:
“Recently, we received some interesting property claims. Hotel guests, trying to expand their closet space, enlisted the help of sidewall sprinkler heads, using them as makeshift coat racks. The weight of the clothing damaged the fusible element of the sprinklers, setting them off and causing more than $200,000 in water damage.”
Ouch. The insurance company is playing a role in solving the root cause of the problem, which is good for their clients and good for the insurer. Let's see how they do.
“…our experts… advised clients to place a warning sign next to sidewall sprinklers to prevent similar damage. Simple, but effective.”
That might be effective, but warning signs are never the most effective form of error proofing. It's good that their sticker explains “why”, warning the hotel guest that damage could occur (it's better than a sticker that just screams “NOT A COATHOOK!!”.
All day long we see signs and warnings screaming at us, including “PAPER FOR RECYCLING ONLY!” and “DO NOT THROW OUT TRAYS” and “GLASS ONLY” Not the most effective error proofing. Putting templates on trash cans, for example, that allow you to only throw out glass bottles or that prevent you from throwing out the sub shop tray are much more effective than signs.
Real error proofing involves systemic changes to prevent the problem from occurring. On one level, hotel guests might not have enough closet space or hangers. Maybe Wausau should have advised them to increase the number of hangers or to add hooks in the bathroom that could be used for hanging a coat.
Or, Wausau should use its “construction expertise” to advise hotels to never build sidewall sprinklers. I've seen hotels that have those sprinklers on the ceiling, again with a “do not touch” warning. But there's no way you could hang a coat from a ceiling mounted sprinkler.
Wausau would be better served by going at least one more level deep in the Toyota “5 Whys” analysis.
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