Objectives/Scope: Ensuring people in an organisation are well connected has been shown in previous research to be vital for exchanging information, influencing attitudes, and improving safety. After an incident, information is often distributed within a company so that others can learn from that incident. While processes to share incident information often exist, there is a need to understand whether and how information reaches those who need it in their roles, as effective information exchange is a first step to building the knowledge of those not directly involved in an incident.
Methods, procedure, process: To investigate this topic, the Open University, in collaboration with the Energy Institute, sent a survey to employees working in operational and maintenance teams at a European site of a multinational energy company, asking how they receive safety related information. Survey respondents included both front-line workers and managerial members of the teams. The surveys enquired how people receive information about incidents, focusing both on formal and informal channels. Here a formal channel refered to an email, document, or meeting where information on an incident is purposefully shared. Informal channels include, for example, discussing a safety concern with a colleague.
Results, observations, conclusions: The data evidenced that plant operators and managers received information in different ways. Front-line workers appeared to have many connections within a team with whom they would discuss safety concerns, but mainly received information from outside their team only through official notifications distributed by the health and safety team. The managerial level members of the unit, on the other hand, often had a wide network of colleagues external to their immediate team, from whom they heard information about industry incidents in addition to the reports distributed by the health and safety team. How teams responded to an incident alert, and what additional knowledge was gathered by management was, nevertheless, not captured by a formal system. It is likely to be useful to formally record information on the actions taken in response to an incident by teams, as others could then learn not only from original incident information, but also from the responses of other teams within the organisation.
Novel/ additive information: Consideration of the flow of information is vital if companies are to enable workers to learn from incidents which they weren’t directly involved in. While health and safety are usually the source of information, all workers at a site have the opportunity to hear about industry incidents that could help to keep front-line workers safe. However, unless a procedure exists to record the actions taken by teams and additional useful information gathered by management, learning will be kept to a local level. A formal database or system could aid teams in understanding how others have learnt from an incident.