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Home arrow Computer Science arrow Safety at the sharp end a guide to non-technical skills


This chapter has described a range of different diagnostic tools that can be used to identify the non-technical skills inherent in safe and effective performance. We have seen here that diagnostic tools can include self-report questionnaires, interviews, observation (by trained observers), accident/near-miss analysis and confidential reporting systems. No single tool on its own provides a full picture of the relevant non-technical skills, and it is recommended that combinations of two or more tools are used. Although core non-technical skills can be identified across domains (e.g. decision-making, situation awareness, communication, leadership, teamwork), behaviours, or elements, emerge specific to each domain. Once the nontechnical skills appropriate to a setting have been identified and rigorously analysed, specific training objectives, training evaluation and feedback can be designed and introduced.

Key points

  • • Identification of the specific skills relative to an occupation or task set is the first step in designing training or assessment tools for non-technical skills.
  • • A variety of diagnostic tools exist, which can be used individually, but acquired data are enhanced by using more than one technique. Questioning, observation and event-based techniques are used to identify the non-technical skills. These data are then used to develop a taxonomy that comprises categories of the relevant skills and elements or behaviours that describe those skills.
  • • Regardless of the technique, or techniques used, careful analyses are required to identify the key non-technical skills.
  • • Cognitive task analysis (Ста) techniques relate to a particular application of the above techniques when they are used to identify the cognitive skills that support task performance. these techniques are particularly relevant in dynamic tasks that demand high cognitive complexity, and has been used to assess non-technical skills in high-hazard industries, such as the offshore oil and gas industry, nuclear production installations, aviation and anaesthetics.
  • • An accident reporting tool provides data that begin with a negative outcome and considers how and when the defences built into the system failed. Accident analyses are only useful for non-technical skills identification if the presence or absence of relevant behaviours have been recorded.
  • • Confidential reporting systems gather data from individuals about errors or safety concerns that can be fed back into the system to improve safety.
  • • on the basis of the data collected from these techniques, a preliminary taxonomy of non-technical skills can be developed, validated and evaluated, which can then be used to guide a non-technical skills training programme.
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