The Safety Checklist Manifested

Interesting article re the use of safety checklists by Tim Ludwig on his blog – see it here The Checklist Manifested


Safety Checklists should be used with caution. In many of his ARTICLES, Dr Rob Long cautions against developing a checklist mentality – rather you should be focusing on people rather than objects.  You do this by talking to them! Read :Focus on People Not Objects and TEN CAUTIONS ABOUT USING SAFETY CHECKLISTS

Other related articles:

Free Safety Checklists


Making Objects Safe or People Safe – Dr Rob Long

imageI often ask people in risk and safety training as my first question, ‘When you walk on site, what are you looking for?’ It was no different this week and I got the usual answer ‘hazards!’ A number of people in the group had many years as inspectors, auditors and investigators and are usually zealous about the authority of safety over everything else, even people’s freedom to make a wrong choice. In recent discussions, I have been astounded by safety people who have no expertise in several arenas who clearly believe that safety gives them a mandate to ride roughshod over what others do in schooling, health, community and homes.

Tips on How to Develop a Safety Checklist

Safety checklists vary in size, format and purpose. They can be used on a daily or weekly basis to identify hazards, ensure hazard controls are in place or prior to a safety committee meeting to gather items for discussion. They can ensure that important items are checked regularly and consistently but care should be taken that things not on the checklist are not overlooked. They are a good tool for creating hazard awareness and provide documented proof that the site takes a proactive approach to hazard identification. Here are few useful tips if you are trying to develop your own checklist. This list is not exhaustive!

Let my checklists go!

Safety ChecklistThis is a guest post by JonathanBrun of, a company that helps you audit and verify more efficiently.   Checklists are a key part of any audit, verification or inspection. Even the most experienced auditors need them to help them stay on top of things and make sure they don’t […]

The Checklist Manifested – by Tim Ludwig


safety checklistBuild them Curiously Strong If checklists are to be effective as behavior-management tools, you must manage the behavior of using checklists! Today is the day our family vacation is to begin.  We have so much to remember: Take the pets to their hotel; go to the bank; take out the trash; pack power cords, prescriptions, underwear;  turn down the heat; make sure my 18 year-old brings his ID to the airport this time… the list continues.  We know that once we’re on the road we’ll realize we forgot something.  Wondering what we’re forgetting while we’re forgetting can be maddening.  Recently, before taking any trip, I’ve adopted a good habit of making a list on my iPhone and checking off each item as soon as it is accomplished.  When I am disciplined enough to do this, I tend to be a happier and more successful traveler. The simple checklist has gotten a lot of press recently.  A couple years back, Atul Gawande put out his popular Checklist Manifesto that described the use of checklists in the operating room and arguing that this marvellous tool can be used to reduce injuries, quality errors, and perhaps even travel forgetfulness.  On the wave of checklist mania also rides a group of former military pilots who call themselves Check Six.  They make a strong case for preparing very precise checklists that allow for quite amazing, yet safe gravity defying feats.  I’d be willing to wager that there are a dozen more groups marketing their particular take on checklists. I personally am very much a supporter of the checklist.  My behavioural science colleagues and I have been studying checklists for decades now.  We have been publishing research investigating the checklist’s efficacy in improving quality, sales, sanitation, and, of course, as a tool for promoting safety.  It is no accident that we made the checklist the primary tool of Behavior-Based Safety.    From our behavioral science perspective, the checklist is the Altoids Mint of behavior change techniques… it’s curiously strong … when done right. Checklists offer a nice mix of antecedents that clarify for users which of their specific behaviors require prompting at the moment.  Progressing through and completing to satisfaction each of the items on the checklist can provide some mildly reinforcing feedback in the form of a job well done.  To heighten their impact, checklists also can be designed to be associated with other more powerful consequences.  Pilots, for example, cannot gain clearance to take off until they complete their checklists.  In other cases employees are required to submit their checklists so supervisors can verify their use. Creating checklists, however, isn’t necessarily a ticket to success.  In fact sometimes they can prove counterproductive. You see, while checklists can be used effectively to manage behavior, we must remain mindful of the fact that the act of using checklists is itself a behaviour.  If checklists are to be effectively used as tools for managing behavior, the behavior of using checklists themselves must be managed and reinforced.


Once I was engaged in an oil field, attempting to identify and manage critical behaviors that lead to losses such as injury, process safety incidents, or service delivery interruptions.   By reviewing records, we found that a particular piece of equipment was contributing to the greatest loss.  Most of the incidents could have been avoided by using common preventative maintenance procedures.  But that wasn’t happening.

Operators were supposed to conduct the preventative maintenance (PM) routine within a 60-minute interval when the machine was idle between cycles of operation.  Managers had been assuming this PM was ongoing because all operators turned in the required checklist to their support engineers to verify they did the PM.  Piles of these completed checklists could be found on every site.

I asked to look at them and was handed a stack that had just been turned in.  As I paged through them, I noted that they were all the same… exactly the same.  They literally had been photocopied!  The person who submitted them had been so brash as to mark out the photocopied date and write in a new one!

Read the rest of the article here: see it here The Checklist Manifested

Dr Rob Long

Dr Rob Long

Expert in Social Psychology, Principal & Trainer at Human Dymensions
Dr Rob Long

Latest posts by Dr Rob Long (see all)

Dr Rob Long
PhD., MEd., MOH., BEd., BTh., Dip T., Dip Min., Cert IV TAA, MRMIA Rob is the founder of Human Dymensions and has extensive experience, qualifications and expertise across a range of sectors including government, education, corporate, industry and community sectors over 30 years. Rob has worked at all levels of the education and training sector including serving on various post graduate executive, post graduate supervision, post graduate course design and implementation programs.

Do you have any thoughts? Please share them below