Tag Archives: Solutions

Plane Dive Caused by Personal Camera Results in Court-Martial

By Angela Griffith

On February 9, 2014, a Royal Air Force Voyager was transporting 189 passengers and a crew of 9 towards Afghanistan when the plane suddenly entered a steep dive. Many passengers were unrestrained and were injured by striking the ceiling or other objects. Other passengers were injured by flying objects or spills of hot liquid. More than 30 passengers and crew members reported injuries, all considered minor. The Military Aviation Authority’s final report contains details of the impacts from the dive, the causes of the dive, and recommendations that would reduce the possibility of a similar issue in the future.

These impacts, the cause-and-effect relationships that led to them, and the recommended solutions can be captured within a Cause Map. The Cause Map process begins with filling in a Problem Outline, which captures the what, when and where of an incident, followed by the impacts to the goals. The problem covered by the report is the aircraft dive and resulting injuries which occurred on February 9, 2014 at about 1549 (3:49 PM) on an Airbus A330-243 Voyager tanker air transport flight. Things that were different, unusual or unique at the time of the incident are also captured. In this case, the plane had experienced prior turbulence, and the co-pilot was not in his seat at the time of the dive.

The next step is to capture the impacts to the goals on the Outline. In this case, the safety goal is impacted because of a significant potential for fatalities, as well as the more than 30 actual injuries. Customer service is impacted due to the steep dive of the plane, and the regulatory goal is impacted due to the court-martial of the pilot, as well as 10 lawsuits against the Ministry of Defense. Production was impacted because the plane was grounded for 12 days, the property goal is impacted because of the potential for the loss of the whole plane, and the labor goal is impacted by the investigation.

Beginning with an impact to the goal, all the cause-and-effect relationships that led to that goal are captured on the Cause Map. In this case, the potential for fatalities resulted from the potential loss of the plane. According to Air Marshal Richard Garwood, previous director general of the UK’s Military Aviation Authority (MAA), “On this occasion, the A330 automatic self-protection systems likely prevented a disaster of significant scale. The loss of the aircraft was not an unrealistic possibility.” The potential for the loss of the plane resulted from the steep dive. The reason the plane was NOT lost (and this becomes a significant near miss) is the plane was recovered to level flight by the flight envelop protection system, which functioned as designed. (Although this is a positive, not a negative, it’s a cause all the same and should be included in the Cause Map.)

The steep dive resulted from the controller being forced forward without being counteracted. These are two separate causes that resulted in the effect, and are listed vertically and joined with an “AND” on the Cause Map. More detail should be provided about both causes. The command could not be counteracted because the co-pilot was not on the flight deck. He had been taking a break for several minutes before the incident. The investigation found that the controller was forced forward by a camera that was pushed against the controller. The camera had been placed between the seat and the controller, and then the seat was pushed towards (as is normal to occur during flight).

The investigation found that, despite concerns for about a year prior to this incident, loose personal articles were not prohibited on the flight deck. While there was a requirement to stow loose articles, it was not referenced in the operational manual and instead became one of thousands of paragraphs provided as background, resulting in a lack of awareness of controller interference from loose articles. The pilot was found to be using the camera while on the flight deck, likely due to boredom on the highly automated plane. (Analysis of the camera and flight recordings provided evidence.) The pilot was court-martialed for “negligently performing a duty, perjury and making a false record”, presumably at least partially due to the use of a personal camera while solo on the flight deck.

The report provided many recommendations as a result of the investigation, including increasing seat belt use by passengers and crew during rest periods, which would have reduced some of the injuries caused by unrestrained personnel striking the ceiling of the aircraft. Recommendations also included ensuring manufacturer’s safety advice is included in operational documents, promoting awareness of the danger of loose articles, and maximizing use of storage for loose articles, all of which aim to reduce the risk of loose articles contacting control equipment. An additional recommendation is to manage low in-flight pilot workload in an attempt to combat the boredom that can be experienced on long flights.

To view the Problem Outline, Cause Map, and recommendations, please click “Download PDF” above. Or click here to read the Military Aviation Authority’s report.

Marauding Monkeys Lead to Electrical Outage in Kenya

By Angela Griffith

One monkey managed to cause an electrical outage for all of Kenya – 4.7 million households and businesses – for 15 minutes to more than 3 hours. In order to determine solutions to prevent this from happening again, a thorough analysis of the problem is necessary. We will look at this issue within a Cause Map, a visual form of root cause analysis.

The first step of any problem-solving method is to define the problem. In the Cause Mapping method, the problem is defined with respect to the organization’s goals. In this case, there were several goals that were impacted. If the organization has a goal of ensuring safety of animals, that goal is impacted due to the risk of a fatality or severe injury to the monkey. (In this case, the monkey was unharmed and was turned over to the wildlife service.) The loss of power to 4.7 million businesses and households is an impact to the customer service goal. The nationwide power outage, which lasted from 15 minutes to over 3 hours, is an impact to the production/ schedule goal. Damage to the transformer is an impact to the property goal, and the time required for response and repair is an impact to the labor/ time goal.

The second step of problem-solving is the analysis. Using the Cause Mapping method, cause-and-effect relationships are developed. One of the impacted goals is used as the first effect. Asking “Why” questions is one way to determine cause-and-effect relationships. However, there may be more than one cause required to produce an effect. In this example, the power outage resulted from a cascading effect on the country’s generators. This cascading effect was caused by the loss of a hydroelectric facility, which provides 20% of the country’s electricity, and the unreliability of the power grid, due to aging infrastructure. All of these causes were required for this scenario: had the country had a more reliable power grid or more facilities so that the country was not so dependent on one, the loss of the hydroelectric site would not have resulted in nationwide outage.

Continuing the analysis, the loss of the hydroelectric facility was caused by an overload when a key transformer at the site was tripped. According to the power company, the trip was caused by a monkey falling onto the transformer. (There is also photographic evidence showing a monkey in the area of the transformer.) In order for the monkey to fall onto the transformer, it had to be able to access the transformer. The monkey in this case is believed to have fallen off the roof. How this occurred is still unclear, because the facility is secured by an electric fence designed specifically for protection against “marauding wild animals”.

The last step of problem-solving is to determine solutions, based on the analysis of this problem. The utility says it is “looking at ways of further enhancing security” at all their power plants. Unfortunately, total protection against outages caused by animals is impossible. In the United States, animal-caused outages are believed to cause at least $18 billion in lost economy every year. Just this May, raccoons caused outages to 40,000 in Seattle and 5,600 in Colorado Springs. This year also saw outages caused by squirrels, snakes, starlings and geese. Other unusual outages include work on a transformer causing an outage with economic loss of $118 million in Arizona (see our blog on this subject) and a woman with a shovel who cut internet service to nearly all of Armenia (see our blog on this subject).

Because power outages due to animals and other issues can’t be completely eliminated, ensuring a robust power grid is important to minimize the impact from and duration of outages. Calls for improvements to the aging infrastructure in Kenya have resulted from this incident, but these kinds of solutions require not only the cooperation of the utilities, but the country as a whole.

To view the problem outline and Cause Map for this incident, please click on “Download PDF” above

Oil Leaked from shipwreck near Newfoundland

By Kim Smiley

On March 31, 2013, oil was reported in Notre Dame Bay, Newfoundland.  Officials traced the source of the oil back to a ship, the Manolis L, that sank in 1985 after running aground.  The Manolis L is estimated to have contained up to 462 tons of fuel and 60 tons of diesel when it sank and much of that oil is believed to still be contained within the vessel.  Officials are working to ensure the oil remains contained, but residents of nearby communities who rely on tourism and fishing are concerned about the potential for more oil to be released into the environment.

A Cause Map, a visual format for performing root cause analysis, can be built to better understand this issue.  There are three steps in the Cause Mapping process. The first step is to fill out an Outline with the basic background information along with listing how the problem impacts the goals.  There is also space on the Outline to note the frequency of the issue.  For this example, 2013 was the first time oil was reported to be leaking from this particular sunken ship, but there have been 700 at-risk sunken vessels identified in Canadian waters alone.  It’s worth noting this fact because the amount of resources a group is willing to use to address a problem may well depend on how often it is expected to occur.  One leaking sunken ship is a different problem than potentially having hundreds that may require action.

The second step is to perform the analysis by building the Cause Map.  A Cause Map is built by asking “why” questions and laying out the answers to visually show the cause-and-effect relationships.  Once the causes have been identified, the final step is to develop and implement solutions to reduce the risk of similar problems occurring in the future.  Click on “Download PDF” to view an Outline and intermediate level Cause Map for this problem.

In this case, the environmental goal is clearly impacted because oil was released into the environment.  Why? Oil leaked out of a sunken ship because a ship had sunk that contained a large quantity of oil and there were cracks in the hull.  The hull of this particular ship is thin by modern standards (only a half-inch) and it has been sitting in sea water for the last 30 years.  A large storm hit the region right before oil was first reported and it is believed that the hull (already potentially weakened by corrosion) was damaged during the storm.  The Coast Guard identified two large cracks in the ship that were leaking oil during their investigation.

Once the causes of the issue have been identified, the final step is to implement solutions to reduce the risk of future problem.  This is where a lot of investigations get tricky.  It is often easier to identify the problem than to actually solve it. It can be difficult to determine what level of risk is acceptable and how many resources should be allotted to an issue.  The cracks in the hull of the Manolis L have been patched using weighted neoprene sealants and a cofferdam has been installed to catch any oil that leaks out.  The vessel is being monitored by the Canadian Coast Guard via regular site visits and aerial surveillance flights. But the oil remains in the vessel so there is the potential that it could be released into the environment.

Many local residents are fighting for the oil to be removed from the sunken ship, rather than just contained, to further reduce the risk of oil being released into the environment. But removing oil from a sunken ship is very expensive.  In 2013, it cost the Canadian Coast Guard about $50 million to remove oil from a sunken ship off the coast of British Columbia. So far, officials feel that the measures in place are adequate and that the risk doesn’t justify the cost of removing the oil from the vessel. If they are right, the oil will stay safely contained at a fraction of the cost of removing it, but if they are wrong there could be lasting damage to local communities and wildlife.

In situations like this, there are no easy answers.  Anybody who works to reduce risk faces similar tradeoffs and generally the best you can do is to understand a problem as thoroughly as possible to make an informed decision about the best use of resources.

Worker dies while manually measuring tank

By Kim Smiley

The potential danger of confined spaces is well documented, but nine fatalities have shown that people working near open hydrocarbon storage hatches can also be exposed to dangerous levels of hydrocarbon gases and oxygen-deficient atmospheres.  NPR recently highlighted this issue in an article entitled “Mysterious Death Reveals Risk In Federal Oil Field Rules” that discussed the death of Dustin Bergsing.  His job duties included opening the hatch on a crude oil storage tank to measure the level of the oil and was found dead next to an open hatch.  He was healthy and only 21 years old.

A Cause Map, a visual format for performing a root cause analysis, can be used to help explain what happened to cause his death.  A Cause Map intuitively lays out the cause-and-effect relationships that contributed to an issue and is built by asking “why” questions.  Click on “Download PDF” to view a high level Cause Map of this accident.

So why did his death occur?  An autopsy showed that his death occurred because he had hydrocarbons in his blood.  This occurred because he was exposed to hydrocarbon vapor and he remained in the dangerous environment. (When two causes both contribute to an effect, they are listed vertically on the Cause Map and separated by an “and”.)

When a person is exposed to hydrocarbon vapor, they get disoriented before passing out so it is very difficult for them to get to safety on their own.  Bergsing was working alone at the time of his death and no one was aware that he was in trouble before it was too late.

He was exposed to hydrocarbon gases because he opened a hatch on a crude oil storage tank and the gas had collected at the top of the tank.  He opened the hatch because he planned to manually measure the tank level by dropping a rope inside. Manual tank measurement is a common method to determine level in crude oil storage tanks. Crude oil contains volatile hydrocarbons that can bubble out of the crude oil and collect at the top; the gas will rush out of the tank if a hatch is opened.

Additionally, he wasn’t wearing adequate PPE equipment because it wasn’t required by any regulations and there was limited awareness of this danger.

After his and the other deaths, the industry is starting to become more aware of this issue.  The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a hazard alert bulletin that identified health and safety risks to workers who manually gauge or sample fluids on production and flowback tanks from exposure to hydrocarbon gases and vapors and exposure to oxygen-deficient atmospheres. In addition to working to raise awareness of the issue, OSHA and NIOSH made recommendations to improve working safety that include the following:

– Implementing alternate procedures that allow workers to monitor tank levels and sample without opening hatches

– Installing hatch pressure indicators

– Conducting worker exposure assessments

– Providing training on the hazard and posting hazard signage

– Not permitting employees to work alone

Please read the OSHA and NIOSH hazard alert bulletin for more information and a full list of the recommendations. Many of the recommendations would be expensive and time-consuming to implement, but some may be relatively simple ways to reduce risk. Continuing to provide information to workers about the potential hazards might be a good first step to improve their safety.

Don’t Just Google It . . . Maps Error Leads to Wrong House Being Demolished

By Angela Griffith

Imagine coming “home” and finding an empty lot. That’s what happened in Rowlett, Texas on March 22, 2016. A tornado had previously damaged many of the homes in the area; some were slated for repairs, and some for demolition. The demolition company had plans to level the duplex at 7601 Cousteau Drive, but instead demolished the duplex at 7601 Calypso Drive.

An error on Google Maps has been blamed for the mistake but, as is typical with these types of incidents, there’s more to it than that. To ensure that all the causes leading to an incident are identified and addressed, it’s important to methodically analyze the issue. Creating a Cause Map, a form of root cause analysis that creates a map of cause-and-effect relationships is one way a problem can be analyzed.

The first step in the Cause Mapping process is to capture the what, when and where of an incident. Along with the geographic (where the incident occurred) and process location (what was being done at the time), it can be helpful to capture any differences about the situation surrounding the incident. In this case, “differences” would be anything out of the ordinary during the demolishing of the house at 7601 Cousteau/Calypso. The error on Google Maps (which pointed to the house which was mistakenly demolished) is one difference. Another difference is that the name of the street was not checked during the location confirmation. Other potential differences between this demolish job and other demolish jobs were that the same house number was present on both streets, in close proximity, and both houses experienced tornado damage. These differences may or may not be causally related – at this point, potential differences are just captured.

The next step is to capture the impacts to the organization’s goals as a result of the incident. These impacts to the goals become the first effects in the cause-and-effect relationships. In this case, there’s a potential for injuries (an impact to the safety goal) as a result of an unexpected demolition. The demolition of a house planned to be repaired is an impact to the environmental, customer service, and property goals. The demolition of the wrong house is an impact to the production/ schedule and labor/time goals.

The analysis begins with one of the impacted goals. Asking “why” questions develops cause-and-effect relationships. For example, the demolition of the wrong house was caused by the duplex at 7601 Calypso Drive being demolished while the duplex at 7601 Cousteau was planned for demolition. Because both of these facts (which can be verified with evidence) resulted in the wrong house being demolished, they are both connected to the cause of ‘demolition of wrong house” and joined with an “AND”.

Each cause on the map is also an effect. More detail can be added to the Cause Map by continuing to ask “why” questions. However, one cause may not be sufficient to result in an effect, so questions such as “what else was required?” are also necessary to ensure all causes are present on the map. In this case, the crew went to the wrong house because of an error on Google Maps, which was used to find the house. Per a Google spokeswoman, 7601 Cousteau was shown at the location of 7601 Calypso. This error has been identified as “the cause” of the incident. However, there were other opportunities to catch the error. Opportunities that were missed are also causes in the cause-and-effect relationship. While there was a site confirmation prior to demolition, only the street number (7601), lot location (corner lot), and tornado damage were confirmed. All three of these data points used to confirm the location were the same for 7601 Cousteau and 7601 Calypso.

What hasn’t been mentioned in the news but is apparent from looking at a (corrected) Google Map is that the house-numbering scheme of the neighborhood was set up for failure. 7601 Calypso is on the corner of Calypso Drive and Cousteau Drive, meaning a person could easily believe it was 7601 Cousteau. 7601 Cousteau is just a block away, on the corner of Cousteau Drive and an apparently unnamed alley. I can’t imagine it is the first time that someone has confused the two.

While it’s too late for 7601 Calypso Drive, Google Maps has fixed the error. Likely in the future this demolition company will use another identifier (or will mark the house while talking to the homeowners prior to the demolition) to ensure that the wrong house is not destroyed.

To view the Cause Map, as well as the updated Google Map, click on “download PDF” above.

DC Metro shut down for entire day after fire for inspections

By Kim Smiley 

A fire in a DC Metro tunnel early on March 14, 2016 caused delays on three subway lines and significant disruption to both the morning and evening commutes.  There were no injuries, but the similarities between this incident and the deadly smoke incident on January 12, 2015 (see our previous blog on this incident) led officials to order a 24-hour shutdown of the entire Metro system for inspections and repairs.

The investigation into the Metro fire is still ongoing, but the information that is known can be used to build an initial Cause Map.  A Cause Map is built by asking “why” questions and visually laying out all the causes that contributed to an incident.  Cause Mapping an issue can identify areas where it may be useful to dig into more detail to fully understand a problem and can help develop effective solutions.

So why was there a fire in the Metro tunnel?  Investigators have not released details about the exact cause, but have stated that the fire was caused by issues with a jumper cable.  Jumper cables are used in the Metro system to bridge gaps in the third rail, essentially functioning as extension cords.  The Metro system uses gaps in the third rail to create safer entry and exit spaces for both workers and passengers because of the potential danger of contact with the electrified third rail.  The third rail carries 750 volts of electricity used to power Metro trains and could cause serious injury or even death if accidently touched.

The jumper cables also carry high voltage and fires and/or smoke can occur if one malfunctions.  Investigators have not confirmed the exact issue that lead to this fire, but insulation failures have been identified in other locations and is a possible cause of the fire. (Possible causes can be added to the Cause Map with a “?” to indicate that more evidence is needed.)

One of the things that is always important to consider when investigating an incident is the frequency of occurrence of similar issues.  The scope of the investigation and possible solutions considered will likely be different if it was the 20th time an incident has occurred rather than the first. In this case, the fire was similar to another incident in January 2015 that caused a passenger death.  Having a second incident occur so soon after the first naturally raised questions about whether there were more unidentified issues with jumper cables.  The Metro system uses approximately 600 jumper cables and all were inspected during the day-long shutdown. Twenty-six issues were identified and repaired. Three locations had damage severe enough that Metro would have immediately stopped running trains through them if the extent of the damage had been known.

The General Manger of the DC Metro system, Paul J. Wiedefeld, is relatively new to his position and has been both praised and criticized for the shutdown.  Trying to implement solutions and reduce risk is always a balancing act between costs and benefits.  Was the cost of a full-day shutdown and inspections of all jumper cables worth the benefit of knowing that the cable jumpers have all been inspected and repaired?  At the end of the day, it’s a judgement call, but I personally would be more comfortable riding the Metro with my children now.

For the first time, autonomous car is at fault for a crash

By Kim Smiley

On February 14, 2016, the self-driving Google car was involved in a fender bender with a bus in Mountain View, California.  Both vehicles were moving slowly at the time and the accident resulted in only minor damage and no injuries.  While this accident may not seem like a very big deal, the collision is making headlines because it is the first time one of Google’s self-driving cars has contributed to an accident.  Google’s self-driving cars have been involved in 17 other fender benders, but each of the previous accidents was attributed to the actions of a person, either the drivers of other vehicles or the Google test driver (while they were controlling the Google car).

The accident in question occurred after the Google car found itself in a tricky driving situation while attempting to merge.  The Google car had moved over to the right lane in anticipation of making a right turn.  Sandbags had been stacked around a storm drain, blocking part of the right lane.  The Google car stopped and waited for the lane next to it to clear so that it could drive around the obstacle.  As the Google car moved into the next lane it bumped a bus that was coming up from behind it.  Both the driver of the bus and the Google car assumed that the other vehicle would yield.  The test driver in the Google car did not take control of the vehicle and prevent the car from moving into the lane because he also assumed the bus would slow down and allow the car to merge into traffic. (Click on “Download PDF” to view a Cause Map that visually lays out the causes that contributed to this accident.)

Thankfully, this collision was a relatively minor accident. No one was hurt and there was only relatively minor damage to the vehicles involved. Lessons learned from this accident are already being incorporated to help prevent a similar incident in the future. Google has stated that the software that controls the self-driving cars has been tweaked so that the cars will recognize that buses and other large vehicles may be less likely to yield than other types of vehicles. (I wonder if there is a special taxi tweak in the code?)

It’s also worth noting that one of the driving factors behind the development of autonomous cars is the desire to improve traffic safety and reduce the 1.2 million traffic deaths that occur every year.  The Google car may have contributed to this accident, but Google cars have so far generally proved to be very safe.  Since 2009, Google cars have driven more than 2 million miles and have been involved in fewer than 20 accidents.

One of the more interesting facets of this accident is that it raises hard questions about liability.  Who is responsible when a self-driving car causes a crash? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently determined that for regulatory purposes, autonomous vehicle software is a “driver” which may mean that auto manufacturers will assume greater legal responsibility for crashes.  NHTSA is working to develop guidance for self-driving vehicles, which they plan to release by July, but nobody really knows yet the impact self-driving cars will have on liability laws and insurance policies.  In addition to the technology issues, there are many legal and policy questions that will need to be answered before self-driving cars can become mainstream technology.

Personally, I am just hoping this technology is commercially available before I reach the age where my kids take away my car keys.

Why New Homes Burn Faster

By Kim Smiley

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 11.50.42 AMResearch has shown that new homes burn up to eight times faster than older homes.  What this means is that people have less time to get out of a house when a fire starts – a lot less time.  People living in older homes with traditional furnishings were estimated to have about 17 minutes to safely evacuate a home, but the time decreases to about three minutes in a home built with modern materials and furnished with newer, synthetic furniture.

Modern manufactured wood building materials have a lot of advantages. They are lighter, stronger and cheaper than using traditional wood materials, but these characteristics also mean they burn a lot faster.  Additionally, modern homes typically contain more potential fuel for fires. Many modern furnishings are manufactured using synthetics that contain hydrocarbons, which are a flammable petroleum product.  Furnishings manufactured with synthetic products will burn faster and hotter than traditional furnishings built using wood, cotton and down.  Most modern homes also just simply have more stuff in them that is potential fuel.

Other factors can also make modern homes more dangerous when a fire occurs. Many modern homes are open concept designs as opposed to more compartmentalized traditional designs.  Open spaces in a home can provide more oxygen for a fire to quickly grow.  Additionally, modern energy-efficient windows can help trap heat in a home when a fire starts and can lead to a fire spreading more rapidly. Changes in the way we live and build homes and furnishings have all contributed to modern homes building significantly faster, a potential danger that people need to be aware of so that they can work to keep themselves and their children safe.

The best way to protect yourself and your family is to prevent a fire from occurring in the first place.  Never leave candles burning unattended. Keep all potentially flammable items away from fireplaces and heaters. Don’t leave things on the stove unattended. During the holidays, make sure to keep Christmas trees well watered and away from heat sources and ensure candles are a safe distance from any potentially flammable objects.   These and other basic common sense steps really do prevent fires from occurring.

Of course there is no way to guarantee that a fire will never occur so every house needs working smoke detectors.  It is recommended that they are checked monthly to verify they are functional and that the batteries are changed regularly.  Most fatalities associated with home fires are in homes without working smoke detectors so it really is worth the time and effort to ensure they are kept in good working order.

To view a Cause Map, a visual root cause analysis of this issue, click on “Download PDF” above.

 

Are Your Vehicle’s Tires Safe?

By Angela Griffith

Four vehicle accidents between February and May of 2014 took 12 lives and injured 42 more. While the specifics of the accidents varied, all four were due to tread separations on tires. Later that year the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hosted a Passenger Vehicle Tire Safety Symposium to address areas of concern regarding passenger vehicle safety due to tire issues. A special investigation report, which was adopted October 27, 2015, provides a summary of the issues and industry-wide recommendations to improve passenger vehicle safety.

There are multiple issues causing safety concerns with tires, and multiple recommendations to mitigate these safety risks. When dealing with a complex issue such as this, it can help to visually diagram the cause-and-effect relationships. We can do this in a Cause Map, or visual root cause analysis. This analysis begins with an impact to the organization’s goals. According to the NTSB report, tire-related accidents cause more than 500 deaths and 19,000 injuries every year in the US. Customer service (customers being members of the public who purchase and/or use tires) is impacted due to a lack of understanding of tire safety. The regulatory goal is impacted due to a lack of tire registration, and the production goal is impacted due to a low recall completion rate. Lastly, the property goal is impacted due to tires that are improperly maintained.

Cause-and-effect relationships are developed by beginning with an impacted goal (in this case, the deaths and injuries) and asking “why” questions. In this case, the deaths and injuries are due to tire-related accidents, of which there are about 33,000 every year in the US. Tire-related accidents includes accidents that are due to tire issues (such as tread separation) caused by improper maintenance or an unrepaired manufacturing issue with a tire (specifically those resulting in a tire recall). While the NTSB is recommending the promotion of technology that may reduce the risk of tire-related accidents, they also made recommendations that can reduce the risk of these accidents in the near term.

From 2009-2013, there were 3.2 million tires recalled in 55 safety campaigns. However, 56% of recalled tires remain in use, because of very low recall work completion rates. In a typical tire recall, only about 20% of recalled tires are returned to the manufacturer. (In comparison, about 78% of recalled cars are repaired.)   Many tires aren’t registered, and if they aren’t, it’s difficult to reach owners when there are recalls. Independent dealers and distributors, which sell 92% of tires in the US, aren’t required to register tires. While it is possible for consumers to look up their own tires to determine if they’ve been recalled, it’s difficult. The full tire identification number may not be printed in an accessible location, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website for tire recalls was found to be confusing.

The NTSB has recommended that tire manufacturers include the full tire identification number on both the inboard and outboard side walls of each tire so it can be more easily found by consumers. The NTSB has also recommended that the NHTSA, with the cooperation of the tire industry and Congress, if necessary, improve its recall site to allow search by identification number or brand and model, and improve registration requirements and the recall process.

Regarding improper maintenance, the report found that 23% of tire-related crashes involved tire aging and that 50% of drivers use the wrong tire inflation pressure, 69% have an underinflated tire, 63% don’t rotate their tires, and 12% have at least one bald tire. The report found that consumers have an Inadequate understanding of tire aging and service life and recommends developing test and best practices related to tire aging, and developing better guidance for consumers related to tire aging, maintenance and service life.

The NTSB has issued its own Safety Alert for Drivers, which includes the following guidance:

– Register new tires with the manufacturer

– Check your tire pressure at least once a month

– Inflate your tires to the pressures indicated in your vehicle owner’s manual (not on the tire sidewall)

– When checking tire pressure, look for signs of damage

– Keep your spare tire properly inflated and check it monthly for problems

– Rotate, balance and align your tires in accordance with your vehicle owner’s manual

– If you hear an unusual sound coming from a tire, slow down and have your tires checked immediately

To view the Cause Map, including impacted goals and recommendations, click on “Download PDF” above. Or, click here to read the NTSB’s executive summary.

 

Invasive Pythons Decimating Native Species in the Everglades

By Kim Smiley

Have you ever dreamed of hunting pythons?  If so, Florida is hosting the month-long 2016 Python Challenge and all you need to do to join in is to pay a $25 application fee and pass an online test to prove that you can distinguish between invasive pythons and native snake species.

The idea behind the python hunt is to reduce the population of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades.  As the number of pythons has increased, there has been a pronounced decline in native species’ populations, including several endangered species.  Researchers have found that 99% of raccoons and opossums have vanished along with 88% of bobcats, along with declines in nearly every other species.  Pythons are indiscriminate eaters and consume everything from small birds to full-grown deer.  The sheer number of these invasive snakes in the Florida Everglades is having a huge environmental impact.

The exact details of how pythons were released into the Everglades aren’t known, but genetic testing has confirmed that the population originated from pet snakes that were either released or escaped into the wild. Once the pythons were introduced into the Everglades, their number quickly grew as the python population thrived.  The first Burmese python was found in the Florida Everglades in 1979 and now there are estimated to be as many as 100,000 of the snakes in the area.

There are many factors that have led to the rapid growth in the python population.  They are able to live in the temperate Florida climate, have plentiful food available, and are successfully reproducing.  Pythons produce a relatively large number of eggs (an average of 40 eggs about every 2 years) and the large female python protects them.  Hatchling pythons are also larger than most hatchling snakes, which increases their chance of surviving into adulthood.  There are very few animals that prey on adult pythons.  Researchers have found that alligators occasionally eat pythons, but that the relationship between these two top predators can go both ways and pythons have occasionally eaten alligators up to 6 feet in length.  The only other real predators capable of taking down a python are humans and even that is a challenge.

Before a python can be hunted, it has to be found and that is often much easier said than done. Pythons have excellent camouflage and are ambush predators that naturally spend a large percentage of the day hiding.  They also are semi-aquatic and excellent climbers so they can be found in both the water and in trees.  Despite their massive size (they can grow as long as 20 feet and weigh up to 200 pounds), they blend in so well with the environment that researchers even have difficulty finding snakes with radio transmitters showing their locations.

The last python challenge was held about 3 years ago and 68 snakes were caught.  While that number may not sound large, it is more snakes than have been caught in any other month.  The contest also helped increase public awareness of the issue and hopefully discouraged any additional release of pets of any variety into the wild.  For the 2016 contest, officials are hoping to improve the outcome by offering prospective hunters on-site training with a guide who will educate them on swamps and show them areas where snakes are most likely to be found.

To view a Cause Map, a visual root cause analysis format, of this issue click on “Download PDF” above.  A Cause Map intuitively lays out the cause-and-effect relationships that contributed to the problem.

You can check out some of our previous blogs to view more Cause Maps for invasive species if you want to learn more:

Small goldfish can grow into a large problem in the wild

Plan to Control Invasive Snakes with Drop of Dead Mice