Friday, June 29, 2012

Openness, A Prerequisite for Safety

In my last post I contrasted the response of CASARA to being notified of a technical flaw in their operating procedures that put lives at risk, to that of Southeast Collegiate when they were made aware of a technical flaw in procedures that affected the safety of their students. Now we have a clear demonstration why public acknowledgement is so important when public safety is a stake. The University of Prince Edward Island recently took steps to notify over 300 people, students and lab assistants, that procedures used during teaching labs may have exposed them to HIV or hepatitis. They decided to take this action after recognizing the similarity between the procedure used at Southeast Collegiate and in their own labs. Even though the risk is extremely low, and this situation has to be embarrassing to UPEI, they have taken the correct course of action. In contrast CASARA has shunned and tried to ignore the warnings, and failed to even sufficiently notify their members. As a result the flawed techniques continued in use until at least March of this year, and probably continue in use to this day.

This is why accident investigation reports are a matter of public record. It is ingrained in human nature to try to avoid having to admit we are wrong. Unfortunately, the longer one goes without making that admission the more difficult it becomes. Even early on it takes integrity to stand up and accept responsibility for putting people at risk. Integrity that has been displayed by the people at Souteast Collegiate and UPEI. I wish I could say the same about my erstwhile friends at CASARA. But in the long run what is worse, admitting you've made a mistake, or being responsible for someone's death?

Have a safe Canada Day weekend.

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