Interviewing – Four Paths to Failure

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We at TOP-SET are in a very strong position to comment on the skills of interviewing for investigation, not because we are all expert interviewers, but because our tutors role-play on many of our courses to give students interview practice. Consequently, we are at the raw end of very many interviews and have learned through experience the best techniques to …


Genoa Bridge Disaster

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The major motorway bridge collapse in Genoa, killing 43 people and injuring many others on the 14th of August, prompted some thoughts about human factors and construction failures. Over the centuries, bridges, cathedrals and buildings of every sort have fallen down, sadly in most cases with significant loss of life. However, many ancient buildings, such as some of the Roman aqueducts, …


Last Line of Defence

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There have been references lately on LinkedIn to how useful, exemplary and positive it is to talk about one’s failures in terms of learning from mistakes. This demonstrates that success can follow failure, and indeed often does, if the lessons are sought, studied and used. Admitting to error, however, is made more difficult in environments where there is a ‘blame’ …

‘Rage Against the Machine’? – What Automation Means for Human Error

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The increasing pace towards automation of industry and the workplace can only be a good thing, especially in terms of business and safety. Machines and computers are more efficient after all, and don’t make mistakes like humans do. But, as was observed in the Industrial Revolution of the early nineteenth century, where industrial processes replaced hand production methods, such radical …

Investigating Instrument Readings

An Instrumental Account of Instrumental Readings

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In many investigations, the contribution of instrumental readings plays a part. So just what do instruments tell us?  How accurate, reliable and precise are they? And what do these words mean anyway?  We all use instruments every day, and think nothing of it. The most common perhaps being clocks, watches, thermometers and speedometers. But do we stop to think about …


A TOP-SET Mindset is a Growth Mindset

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‘To err is human’ – it’s all about how we respond. Originally stemming from research by psychologist, Carol Dweck, into individual learning and responses to failure, the concept of a ‘growth versus fixed mindset’ is now moving from being embraced by schools, to being applied in organisations and the business environment. It is easy to see why it could be relevant …

Learning Teams… a new idea or just old ideas repackaged?

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The concept of learning teams is a great step forward but far from new. Involvement of diverse teams in the investigation process is vital to effective outcomes. The purpose of investigating is to learn from incidents and to make improvements in systems, processes and operations. Kelvin TOP-SET has been operating for well over 30 years and the principle of working in diverse …

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Communication is the key

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Human factors are at the heart of all major offshore incidents, indeed all incidents, an investigation expert has recently stated. David Ramsay, group managing director of industry specialists Kelvin TOP-SET, made the comments as he was reflecting on the 30th anniversary of the Piper Alpha disaster. He said that while technical faults do occur, ultimately these arise from a combination …

‘Nothing is true but change, nothing abides…’

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The main aim of our business is to teach people how to think, how to problem solve, how to investigate the causes of events, and learn from them and from the past. That’s why a knowledge and understanding of history is so very important. To that end I read a great deal. This week’s reading has been particularly enlightening and …

A ‘No Blame’ Culture Misunderstood

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Two true stories: 1.              A doctor administered the wrong drug in error and a patient died.  2.              A helicopter pilot put the wrong fuel in the fuel tank and the engine stopped mid-air. Fortunately, he was able to land the helicopter safely, and no one died. The doctor was administering an anaesthetic drug, and had two syringes on his tray, …