"Just the Facts" a Bad Way to Communicate Process Safety

  • Type:
    Conference Presentation
  • Conference Type:
    AIChE Spring Meeting and Global Congress on Process Safety
  • Presentation Date:
    April 2, 2019
  • Duration:
    30 minutes
  • Skill Level:
  • PDHs:

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"Just the facts" a Bad Way to Communicate Process Safety

The qualities making a person a good engineer are often the same qualities making them poor communicators.

Highest among these is an overly strong belief in the power of data, evidence and reasoning.

Professional communicators know the limitations of a "facts only" approach. Professional communicators know data, evidence, and reasoning create “awareness” but not "behavior change." When our communication is exclusively about “the facts” our employees learn but they do not change.

Knowing something is true does not mean you will do it. People “know” they should exercise more--this knowledge does not mean they will do it.

That is why monumental efforts to communicate incidents, have not stopped the same type mistakes happening over and over: lockout/tagout, confined space, line opening, working at height.

In this presentation, Dr TJ Larkin will show many examples of adding emotion to the communication of major incidents:

  • dramatic illustrations showing the explosion, fire, or employees attempting an escape
  • hospital photos of injuries
  • voice recording of injured person’s supervisor talking about the incident
  • photos of the injured person with his or her family taken before the incident
  • plant manager’s voice recording talking about the corrective actions taken
  • video showing the victim’s steps immediately before and after the incident
  • video testimonial of the victim’s team members talking about how this incident has affected them

This emotional content does not replace the factual analysis—it is added to it.

Chemical engineers seem comfortable with a “facts only” approach to communicating major incidents, but it is exactly this “facts only” approach that makes the communication ineffective. Without some emotion in the communication—no one changes, and the same type incidents happen over and over.


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