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Training tackles memory distortion to improve process safety

23 August 2016

Hindsight bias – when the outcome of an incident is known before examining the decisions leading up to it – is a common phenomenon that is preventing engineers from learning valuable lessons about process safety. A new training offer, from the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) Safety Centre, is designed to tackle this problem. 

Using interactive video footage, the trainee is presented with various decisions as a process safety incident unfolds, without prior knowledge of the outcome.

Traditional process safety training typically involves the study of an incident and then works backwards to see where mistakes were made. This makes it easy to make assumptions on the decisions leading up to an event and causes hindsight bias, which also prevents learning. IChemE’s new training format, however, will provide users with an opportunity to make crucial safety decisions in a real-time setting, and see how those decisions impact on the outcome of the incident.

The training aids have already received endorsements from chemical engineers in industry and academia. Professor Peter Ashman, head of Chemical Engineering at University of Adelaide, Australia said: "These are great case studies of engineering decision-making under pressure."
Robert Wright, safety, security, health and environment (SSHE) manager at PTT Exploration and Production said that the case studies were "a stimulating way of understanding process safety management. They worked well with the revelation that this was a real incident and it was simply explained."

Trish Kerin, Director of the ISC said: "This method of communicating a case study has never been done before. We have focused on beginning with the background detail, and then placing the audience as the decision-makers during key points in the case study. The consequence and actual incident the scenario is based on are not revealed until the end. This allows people to experience the context in which decisions are made, rather than focus on the actual decisions."

Those interested in finding out more about the case studies should visit:

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