Toolbox Talks: Human Performance and Covid-19

The Coronavirus (Courtesy Knowledge Vine)

I’m not a medical professional. I’m just a person who, like many of you, is consuming a lot of information these days about Covid-19 or the Coronavirus. Some of it seems like solid advice. Some of it seems a little suspect. (Apparently my Facebook friends lied to me about the benefits of garlic water.) It also seems hard to find the line between “use this for planning” and “you should be panicking.”

The core of our business at Knowledge Vine is Human Performance training and consulting. We look at everything through this lens. We use a tool called “KV Share” to discuss and learn from industry events and accidents in a tight, one-page format. The basic format is “This bad thing happened. How can we prevent it from happening to us?” We will also use the KV Share format for safety alerts or any time we need to bring attention to a special topic.

We created a KV Share to communicate with our internal folks about Covid-19. We asked them to share it with friends, family, or anyone else. This quickly garnered interest from outside of our company as we received a lot of requests for links to the message of using Human Performance to combat Covid-19.

The core information and advice are from the CDC and is likely something everyone has repeatedly heard. However, this looks at the CDC guidance from a Human Performance perspective. A diversity of perspectives will resonate differently with people and spur engagement that may otherwise lay dormant. That’s the idea behind “Why are we talking about viruses and Human Performance?”

Because of this we decided it might be a good idea to share this information more broadly. Hence, this article.

Here is the link if you would like to download, share, or print the KV Share pdf. (It’s just below the example at the top of the page.)

For those who don’t click links, here’s the information from it. Hope this helps.

KV Share – Fight Coronavirus with Human Performance

What does the CDC advise?

—Avoid close contact with sick people.

—Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth.

—Stay home when you are sick.

—Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

—Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

—Follow CDC’s recommendations for using a facemask: Masks are NOT needed if you are well. Masks ARE recommended if you are showing symptoms, caring for the sick, or have a compromised immune system.

—Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

Ask the Right Questions

—What are commonly touched surfaces (Traps)?

—Do I have a plan to avoid exposure (Tools)?

—How can I best protect myself and others?

—What is my Stop Work (stay home) criteria?

How Can Human Performance Help?


Vague Guidance: What should you specifically do to protect yourself?

Overconfidence: The likelihood of getting sick is low, and the consequences are typically not severe. You may be healthy, but others may not be able to fight off the illness. You still have a responsibility to others to prevent the spread of the disease.


Questioning Attitude: How long to wash hands (20 seconds) is clear, but how often? In an office? Set a timer to wash or sanitize every hour. In public? Wash or sanitize after touching surfaces others may have touched.

Peer Check: How do you stop touching your face? A peer check can help you recognize when your hands are around your face. Coach and be willing to receive coaching.

Effective Communication: “Cover your cough” is vague. Don’t cover it with your hand; use your elbow or upper sleeve.

Self-Check: Stop and think if you are sick. Symptoms include: Fever, cough, shortness of breath. Act by staying home.

Toolbox Talks offers quick insights and thoughts to use for your toolbox (tailboard) talks. Dave Sowers is a founding member of Knowledge Vine, a veteran-owned human performance training and consulting organization that strives to reduce the frequency and severity of human errors in the workplace. He has almost 30 years of experience in power generation and the utility industry. He is a veteran of U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Program and holds a bachelor’s degree in resources management and a master’s degree in both management and emergency management and homeland security.