A Warning Sign is Not Effective Mistake Proofing to Protect Worker Safety


It was more than “mildly infuriating” to see this photo and post shared on Reddit's “mildly infuriating” subreddit.

“Mildly infuriating” is when Group 7 passengers clog the boarding gate area when Group 1 is being called. Mildly infuriating is getting an unnecessary spoon in your diner coffee when you clearly said “no cream and no sugar.” Add your own example here.

What was posted on Reddit, as shown below, is completely infuriating and dangerous.

OSHA? Whats that?
byu/CourseAffectionate15 inmildlyinfuriating

Putting up that sign telling other workers to basically “be more careful” is the opposite of “mistake-proofing,” and it's irresponsible. If somebody could get killed (or injured), a sign is not a good countermeasure.

The sign reads:

“DO NOT PUSH BUTTON (People are cleaning and it will kill them)”


Wherever this facility is should be using a “lock out / tag out” (LOTO) procedure to ENSURE that the machine cannot be started with somebody inside.

With LOTO, the people cleaning the machine would each put their own lock on the power switch — to protect themselves and others. When they are out, they remove their own lock. That prevents anybody from powering on the machine while they are inside. That's more effective that saying you shouldn't hit the start button.

What if an employee can't read English? What if somebody bumps the button by mistake and doesn't see the sign?

Thankfully, the person who posted about it on Reddit spoke up in the workplace–and was rewarded for doing so instead of being punished, as they added:

“UPDATE: safety came down today and once again thanked me for bringing this to their attention, and to let me know their grateful that i said something asap. they also stated that additional precautions are going to be inplemented on top of the standard LOTO protocols”

How does this happen?

Is it a lack of education about LOTO? A culture of cutting corners with poor supervision that isn't seeing and correcting these problems?

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.



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