Human factors briefing note no. 10 – Communications

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  • Published: July 2011
  • REF/ISBN: 9780852936085-10
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Status: New

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Information can be passed from one person to another by word of mouth, in writing or by using signs (e.g. hand signals) or pictures (diagrams, photographs etc.) by computer displays and presentations. In all cases, the information should be complete and accurate, and given to the right person in the right form at the right time. Feedback should be given to the person who makes the first communication so that it’s clear that the message was received and is understood. In particular, there should be good communications at shift handover.

Why communications?

Poor communications, especially at shift handover, has been identified as a key contributor to a number of significant accidents including Piper Alpha, Grangemouth, Texas City and Buncefield. The UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced guidance aimed at improving communications during shift handover (Reference 1) and has also researched shift handovers in 16 offshore companies. The findings illustrate a number of problems with communications in general. The study found that, in relation to shift handover, some companies:

  1. Failed to clearly define responsibilities and information needs.
  2. Did not provide adequate training or written guidance.
  3. Carried out little or no monitoring or auditing of handovers.
  4. Omitted shift handover in their safety case.
  5. Had accidents that involved miscommunications at shift handover concerning, for example, maintenance or plant status.

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