Stop Work Authority

Safety Culture in Software Development


What do you do at work when you encounter behavior you deem unsafe to yourself or co-workers?

We stop work by flashing our Stop Work Authority (SWA) card.

The front side of our Stop Work Authority card

Recently, one of our staff was extremely jet-lagged and was still attempting to work. He was remote pairing with a colleague and his pair recognized how exhausted and ineffective he was. So his pair flashed his SWA card and our tired traveler left to get some much needed rest.

Last week, one of our staff had severe pain from a tooth and would later go in for a root canal. Yet he was working through the pain, attempting to prepare new materials for a business trip the following week. Again, a colleague stepped in, flashed the SWA card and worked with others to find a replacement for the work and business trip.

Stop Work Authority cards are common in safety-conscious industries like manufacturing, oil & gas, electric and nuclear power, yet we seldom see them in software development. It’s as if we haven’t yet realized that our field is also hazardous and capable of injuring people.

Our company is developing a safety culture by learning and adapting what other industries do to create a safe workplace.

We are actively recognizing and removing injuries, hazards and near misses related to our time, money, information, reputation, relationships and health.

I coined the term Anzeneering to describe what we are doing. Anzen is a Japanese word that means safety.

The back of our SWA card includes a brief explanation of what it means to be an Anzeneer:

An SWA card is a lot like Toyota’s famous Andon cord: a tool that empowers workers to fix problems without asking for permission.

Create your own SWA cards to empower your staff and grow your safety culture. (I suggest getting laminated cards with rounded corners).

If you found value in learning about SWA cards, it would mean a lot to me if you hit the recommend button!

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