SituationThe corporation I was working for was imploding. The corporation responded by shutting down approximately 25% of its North American capacity. The movement and unemployment benefits of the hourly employees was contractually defined. The salary, or "management" was left to fend for themselves.
My plant manager was an awesome human being named Betty. Betty called all around the corporation and got each of the 220 salaried employees one (1) interview. It was clearly communicated to us that we had one shot at the brass ring, make it good.
The interviewThe manager interviewed me on the floor of the Body shop while it was in production. He had two openings and between fifteen and twenty applicants. They all claimed to have vast amounts of experience in a Body shop.
Unfortunately for him, there was no good way to verify the expertise of the applicants. There were no systems in place within the corporation to support this kind of mass movement of people. For example, I could claim to have invented cold-fusion and there was no way to verify that claim.
After a little bit of small talk, the manager stopped in the middle of an area with multiple power-and-free conveyors. The floor was yellow-and-black striped (no parking of equipment or material baskets allowed). The area was where power-and-free conveyors ramped up overhead and returned to the production area.
I was not able to articulate why, but I was as nervous as a long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.
I danced around while the manager talked and slowly sidled off of the X he had placed me on.
Four minutes later he offered me the job.
What happened?Production facilities can be dangerous. Power-and-free conveyors are unpredictable, they "take off" when commanded by the PLC. There is no warning. Power-and-free conveyors can kill people*!
People who have actually worked in a production environment make a habit of not standing in the path of power-and-free conveyors. It is not healthy.
The manager interviewed me under the descending conveyor because it was his quick test to see if I had enough sense to come in out of the rain....to see if I had the habits that were consistent with the story.
Habits keep us safe
The list is nearly endless. How we drive, where we walk, who we hang out with.
Do we lock doors? Do we keep the gas tank more than half full? Do we explore alternative paths to important places? Do we put things in exactly the same pockets every time?
Do we avoid drama queens? Do we avoid dressing in provocative ways? Do we stay out of bars? Do we avoid needlessly antagonizing people?
Do we dissemble when asked personal questions? Do we minimize our social media footprint? Are our vehicles political statements or transportation?
Do we practice heightened situational awareness in novel situations? Situational awareness is good but good habits keep us safe with less cognitive effort. According to Kahneman, we have a cognitive effort budget that is easily depleted. Good habits free up "cognitive budget" so our minds can process the truly novel portions of any situation.
In other words, situational awareness and good habits are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they work together to keep us safe....and they are free.
*One of the plants where I had worked previously suffered a power-and-free fatality. A tradesman in a scissors lift parked in the path of a power-and-free and started working on a water feed to a water fountain on the next floor up. The power-and-free took off and snagged the bottom of the scissors lift. The lift whipped like a flyrod and smacked his head into the bottom of an I-beam. W e also had a production worker get pinched by a power-and-free. It crushed her calf (it was a "low truck)as it bumped into the conveyor ahead of her.