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By Gregory Hale
The greatest way to work in a safe environment is to learn from one another, but the problem is no one is sharing the information.

“We learn from experiences of our peers, but we don’t share them,” said Dr. Chit Lutchman, contractor safety specialist at Suncor Energy during the AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety in Houston Tuesday.

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He went on to say accidents are going to happen, but the problem is no one seems to learn from them.

“Ninety to 95 percent of safety incidents are predictable and avoidable, and 80 to 85 percent are repeated,” Lutchman said.

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“We are consistently killing people in lockout/tagout procedures and from falling from heights,” he said. After an incident occurs, we write a document that is about 200 pages detailing what happened and what went wrong, “but the problem is no one reads them,” he said.

That means no one is learning from the incident. Another problem is when the legal department gets involved. Yes, it is important legal looks at issues and makes sure the company does not face a huge liability, but on the other hand after they get a hold of a document, they can have a tendency to scrub the facts out and make the document a non learning tool.

“Legal will say you can’t share information, but we will work with them to get information out there,” he said.

Lutchman pointed out challenges to getting the knowledge to the front line:
• Leadership capabilities
• Fear of legal responses
• Weak understanding of shared knowledge

In the safety environment, Lutchman said sharing information remains vital.

“Shared learning is the last low hanging fruit for the industry,” he said. He pointed to one company that makes sure they share as much knowledge as possible, Toyota. He cited statistics that show Toyota is 10 times better in safety than their peers because of shared learning.

Along those lines Suncor created a web-based safety tool to keep everyone informed about safety alerts they can send out company-wide or for specific areas. The tool is a mechanism to get knowledge out to the right people. Shared learning should include:
• Timely sharing
• Quality shared knowledge

“This tool allows us to share safety knowledge throughout the company,” Lutchman said.

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