Learning from incidents seminar series

Effective learning from incidents (LFI) is critical for employees’ safety and environmental protection. Yet little is known about what constitutes ‘effective’ LFI and how to achieve it. Here, Glasgow Caledonian University’s Anoush Margaryan and Allison Littlejohn, and the Energy Institute’s Stuart King, explain.

Learning from incidents (LFI) is important across a range of industries and is relevant for professional and government bodies and third-sector organisations concerned about health and safety. Industrial incidents cause injury, loss of life and environmental degradation – of particular concern to major hazard industries like the energy industry. However, after incident investigation has taken place, LFI initiatives tend to focus too much on the dissemination of information, assuming that access to incident-related information will lead to organisational learning and behavioural change. Yet research into adult learning demonstrates that access to information does not necessarily lead to learning. To learn effectively, people and organisations must have opportunities for reflection and making sense of information by relating and integrating it within their everyday work context.

LFI initiatives in organisations seldom integrate reflection and sense-making opportunities. A key problem is that LFI has been limited to safety science and engineering. Theories and insights from adult learning and other relevant social sciences have seldom been applied to LFI. Also, integration of research and practice in LFI has been poor. To improve our understanding of LFI, an interdisciplinary, inter-sectoral approach bringing together scholars from relevant disciplines with stakeholders from the industry, professional bodies and the government is critical. To address these gaps, an international seminar series – ‘Inter-disciplinary perspectives on learning from incidents’ – is currently being organised. The first of its kind in the world, the series brings together practitioners and policymakers with scholars from a range of disciplines to provide new learning approaches and change methods that can be applied by organisations to improve health and safety across a range of industries. The seminar series is led by the Caledonian Academy, a research centre for Technology-enhanced Professional Learning at Glasgow Caledonian University (http://www.gcu.ac.uk/academy/), in collaboration with scholars from the universities of Aberdeen, Southampton, Edinburgh and Loughborough (UK), Trento (Italy), Helsinki (Finland), and Valencia (Spain), as well as stakeholders from the private and public sectors including senior representatives from the UK’s Energy Institute, the British Safety Council and the Health and Safety Executive. These people represent a range of disciplines spanning adult and organisational learning, sociology, industrial psychology and human factors engineering. Businesses represented within the seminars come from the energy, construction, transport, healthcare and finance sectors and include BP, ConocoPhillips, Costain Group, E.ON, Phillips66, Pinsent Masons and TC Global.

Seminar objectives

The aims of the seminar series are to:

  • Bring together scholars, practitioners and policymakers in order to advance the theory and methodology of LFI and to inject fresh conceptual ideas and innovative methods into the current approaches to LFI.
  • Facilitate a mutual learning process and the joint development of ideas across different disciplines, between researchers and key stakeholders from industry, professional bodies, the third sector and the government.
  • Strengthen the relationship between theory, practice and policy in LFI, ultimately in order to inform organisational strategies for better LFI.
  • Develop an inter-disciplinary research and development agenda in LFI, by providing the networking for industry-academia collaborations in this area, in order to bolster the UK performance in health and safety.
  • Disseminate awareness of research on LFI to a wide range of industries, organisations and policymakers and bring about the impact of research in LFI.

The seminar series will have an anticipated short- to medium-term impact through participants’ exposure to innovative, inter-disciplinary insights from a range of fields they do not yet engage in, triggering novel applications within their own context. Joint knowledge development by industry and policy executives with scholars means that the knowledge has a solid practical and theoretical basis, improving the likelihood of adoption and application of research in real-world settings. Anticipated longterm impacts include enhancement of the health and well-being of employees; improved economic performance, through enhanced individual, group and organisational LFI; and increased effectiveness of LFI policy, through better-quality conceptualisation and research-based evidence. The final outputs include a roadmap for future research and development in LFI, and an edited book with LFI case studies from the private and public sector alongside research-focused contributions.

Upcoming 2014–2015 Seminars

  • 15 October 2014, University of Southampton: LFI Methodologies
  • February 2015, Energy Institute, London: Practice and policy in LFI
  • June 2015, British Safety Council, London: Research-practice nexus in LFI
  • October 2015, Glasgow Caledonian University: LFI roadmap

Seminars are free to attend thanks to financial support from the UK Economic and Social Research Council. For further details and to register visit http://lfiseminars.ning.com/

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