Experience is a good teacher.  But how do you get the experience?  

Formal classroom or online training is often available for more general skills, but on-the-job training usually provides a more in-depth path to gain such experience.  After doing a job for a while, working through difficulties with colleagues, and learning from mistakes, you gradually become the “go-to” person for particular tasks…you become the expert. (learn it, do it, teach it)

Many companies have a great roster of experts in their fields.  But having the bulk of that expertise tied up in just a few individuals can eventually be a problem.  As these experts age, they’re planning for their retirement and departure from business life.  Company management needs to find ways to share the knowledge so younger group members learn what the older members know.  

This is especially true for functional safety tasks. 

If the safety culture is only practiced by a few folks doing that work, the safety culture eventually will be lost when they leave.  Here are some ways to maintain the knowledge chain.

  • Mentoring – allows experienced team members to have access to expert members in periodic and structured Q&A sessions; this can be on specific project work (HW or SW design of a safety transmitter) or general safety tasks (like requirements traceability or test planning).
  • Shadowing- have less-experienced team members work closely with an expert on actual projects which gives others a chance to stretch their skills on tough tasks.  It also gives others a chance to see if they have the aptitude to do the task.
  • Lunch-n-Learn – have an expert prepare a brief description of one or more safety tasks and facilitate discussion of how folks are doing the job and using the tools.

All of these methods give the company the opportunity to find good teachers.  And retired experts may consider coming back for occasion training sessions.

At exida , we are still seeing an increase in the implementation of IEC standards for Functional Safety to manage and control risk in the Process Industries, (Nuclear) Power, Factory Automation, Automotive and Railways.  Knowledge of functional safety in these industries is important for company success.  But unless this information can be recorded and shared, improvement won’t happen and the knowledge can drift away.  If companies can’t cultivate new talent in ways that are meaningful and helpful to younger employees, these budding workers are likely to find a company that will.

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Tagged as:     John Yozallinas     IEC 61511     functional safety  

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