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Supporting safety decision making in companies: Briefing notes for Board members, managers and other leaders

Safety within an organisation is heavily influenced by decisions made at executive Board level and by senior managers of the divisions in the case of large multilevel organisations ('leaders'). Lack of direction and oversight from leaders has been cited as a major contributory factor by investigations into some of the largest incidents that have occurred in the energy industry. Clearly, decisions made by leaders influence the safety performance of the organisation. However, these decisions are not made in a vacuum: they are influenced by many factors – including cognitive and social biases, culture, the way risk is understood, competence, and how information is presented to leaders.

This publication provides guidance on supporting good safety decision making at leadership level to:

  • enable companies to understand and manage the factors that influence decision making by leaders, and
  • improve the quality, understanding, and flow of information at the top of organisations, in order to facilitate better informed decisions, specifically where those decisions can impact on major accident hazard safety.

Each section focuses on a different aspect of supporting decision making at leadership level, including safety culture, social and cognitive biases, and risk assessment and can be read by Board members and other senior personnel individually, or as a single publication. The sections combine aspects of the Board’s responsibilities, along with elements of the pitfalls of decision making in a way that is brief and, as much as possible, avoids duplication.

In order to reach a large target audience, which includes Board members, senior personnel, and others who wish to gain an insight into how companies operate, each section in this publication is designed to be short and, to a certain extent, stand alone. However, it should be noted that aspects of decision making are interrelated, meaning that only reading one section will not give the full picture.

This guideline is available to download for free by registering/logging in to the EI publications website https://publishing.energyinst.org.

ISBN: 978 0 85293 794 5                         1st edition                                    Aug 2016

Hard copy EI member price: £18.75

Hard copy non-member price: £25.00

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