On Jan. 31, NASA’s Johnson
Space Center was visited by retired astronaut and former center deputy director
Jim Wetherbee for a presentation about controlling risk in a dangerous world.
Wetherbee, who has been involved in the recovery efforts of four major
disasters (Challenger, Colombia, and oil and gas incidents involving Texas City
and Deepwater Horizon), provided key tips for renewing vigilance to preserve a
safe and healthy workplace in 2019. Below is a recap of the event.
Back in the Saddle began with a reminder from Johnson
Director Mark Geyer that with upcoming missions—including the first test
flights for the Commercial Crew Program and future missions to the
International Space Station—this is a great time to refocus on the challenges
ahead and ensure that safety continues to be a key component in all of NASA’s
Geyer then introduced Wetherbee, who opened by focusing on
the importance of mental strength in maintaining safety.
“You have the
technical knowledge and skill to do the job, but you also have to have mental
strength,” Wetherbee said.
The mental strength allows for disciplined concentration
when it matters most. Wetherbee went on to talk about the importance of
discipline, not only at an individual level, but as a team. Everyone in the
group must remain focused and work together.
“The human endeavor is
about working with each other,” Wetherbee said. “That is what spurs us to
Here are some techniques Wetherbee recommends to maintain a
safe environment in the coming year.
We must maintain the humility to recognize that sometimes we
can make mistakes, and ensure that we correct them before an accident occurs.
Develop and Maintain Risk
You always have to search for vulnerabilities, maintain
situational awareness and anticipate changing risks.
Accidents occur after things begin to diverge from the norm.
Understand that when you are doing something to add stress, such as hurrying,
auto processing can be overridden and susceptible to mistakes.
Know what matters … and take the time to check the things
that could cause a problem later on.
Go the extra step to verify that something is correct. Don’t
just assume. It’s also important to complete different types of verification to
make sure that there are no errors.
Follow procedures and rules thoughtfully. Having a checklist,
and continuing to use it, lowers the chance that an error can occur.
"Back in the Saddle" presentation by Jim Wetherbee. Credit: NASA/Norah Moran
JSC Deputy Director Vanessa Wyche thanks Jim Wetherbee after the presentation "Back in the Saddle." Credit: NASA/Norah Moran