Critical Incident Recall


Critical Incident Recall

Many organisations will tell you they report near misses or critical incidents. My advice is unless you have organised processes in place to surface near misses or critical incidents you will only hear about a fraction of them.

Critical incident recall is an awesome technique particularly suited to high risk environments. The technique will not work unless there is a climate of trust created between management and workers. Communications must be open & honest and managers and supervisors must be prepared to put up with a lot of criticism and not react defensively. In the interests of getting to the truth there must be no disciplinary actions. The senior department manager must be prepared to put his reputation on the line. The potential for some to push industrial issues is high with this technique, open & honest communication and a determination to improve will defuse this.

Neither management or workers will be prepared to commit to the work required in this technique unless there is a general realisation that problems exist.

What was done

All department members attended a short learning session where the Person, Machine, Environment concepts were explained. If I was to do this again I would include a case study of a complex class 1 personal damage occurrence to bring out the principles. The process they would go through was explained.

Some department members were trained as critical incident participant observers and observed what was happening in the workplace, some department members were trained as critical incident interviewers and interviewed their workmates. It was essential that those chosen for these tasks were trusted by the workforce. The identified critical incidents were communicated to management.

It was planned to let the above process go for 6 months but after a short period of time the frequency and severity of the critical incidents set the alarm bells ringing.

Based on the identified critical incidents a questionnaire was developed and all department members were asked to complete it in a series of meetings.

Responses to the questionnaire were collated and displayed on histograms

In what was a very brave move considering the industrial climate the senior department manager led a series of meetings with the workforce where he displayed the histograms and asked for feedback on reasons why the responses were the way they were. The manager was advised that no matter how severe the criticism he was not to react defensively. In these circumstances if a senior person is criticised severely you will usually find someone in the work group will come to his rescue if he is being fair dinkum, if that does not happen the facilitator can come to his rescue.

Changes that occurred included upgrading of diagrams & plans, purchase of new high voltage testing equipment, better understanding of some test equipment, training, improved maintenance, improved procedures, changes to isolation procedures and improved practice. An environment of open and honest communication also developed.

(Refer to the paper Practical Application of the Critical Incident Recall Technique on

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