Why Checklists are Important

Why use checklists?

An experience factory mechanic was performing routine maintenance on a machine when he was called away to handle a breakdown emergency in another area. When he got back, he completed his work on the machine (or so he thought so) and had the operator start it back up. CRASH! The machine went down… hard.

What went wrong?

As part of determining the root cause, a supervisor asked if a checklist was used on the routine maintenance. The mechanic said “no.” When asked why he said, “I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, I don’t need a checklist!”

The gist of the breakdown was that the mechanic forgot what step he was on by the time he got back from the other emergency work. This can be easily explained since he had to focus on the emergency and all his energy; his effort and brainpower was focused on that. The company decided to incorporate checklists into their maintenance program where appropriate and as needed.

I was curious as to why this experienced mechanic would resist using a checklist. Was it because of all his years of experience?

The Pilot Story

I had a chance to talk with a commercial airline pilot after this event and I wanted to get his opinion on checklists. I asked him why he used a checklist before each flight? Some people would say because he has to, or it is a regulation – but I wanted to hear the reason from a pilot with over 30 years of experience.

When he started to answer he said, “Tony, I know my airplane inside and out, I know the checklist by heart; but each time I fly, there is someone else in the seat next to me and we have to make sure everything is right.”

This struck a chord with me – a pilot with 30 plus years of experience still WANTS TO use the checklist.

It is our challenge to get others to see the importance of using a simple tool like a checklist to avoid factory machine breakdowns, not just for productivity purposes, but also safety reasons.

Additional Resources on Checklists

Check out our free, customizeable Equipment Inspection Workbook>> Free Equipment Inspection Checklist

Get some great ideas on how to customize the Equipment Inspection Checklist>> How to use the Equipment Inspection Checklist

Here’s a link to an article from pilot Peter A. Bedellon on checklists>> Career Pilot: Checklists and Discipline – It’s a Checklist, Not a To-do List

What are your thoughts on checklists?

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