Learning from accidents

Whilsts hazards exist there will be risk and that means there is the potential for accidents. Over recent decades we have got better at reporting and investigating accidents, but that on its own is not enough. It is what we learn and act on that makes the real difference. People often miss some opportunities to learn from an accident because it occurred in a different industry / country / company / site / department / shift …. It seems to be a natural human reaction to find reassurance that the same accident could not happen to us because we do things differently. But please remember, that is exactly what the people involved thought in the weeks, days and hours before they had an accident.

Over the years I have written quite a few articles using a range of accidents to illustrate what we can and should learn, rather than describing the immediate and root causes.

LPB 2020 Dutch surfing tragedy

LPB 2020 Abergele train crash (historic)

LPB 2018 Piper Alpha (Shift handover)

LPB 2018 Piper Alpha (Shared isolations)

TCE 2013 Costa Concordia and Astute

LPB 2012 Costa Condordia

LPB 2012 Astute submarine grounding

LPB 2011 Accident avoidance

Tips 2007 Accident avoidance

LPB 1996 Improve incident investigation with a task inventory

One particular issue that can affect our ability to learn is hindsight bias. Looking back at what happened in an accident or incident from a desk leads us to focus on errors made by people involved at the time without recognising that the people present at the time were trying to do the right thing (they didn’t mean for an accident to happen). Here are a couple of papers

LPB 2018 – Hindsight bias

LPB 2018 – Hindsight bias and the role of procedures