Finding the parallels: Practitioner learning from cross sector disaster cases

Jan Hayes, Sarah Maslen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Organizational safety researchers generally agree that, due to the common organizational causes of disasters, lessons can be broadly applicable rather than industry specific. However, previous research has not empirically investigated the ways in which practitioners in one sector apply disaster lessons from another. This article contributes to this scholarship by presenting findings from a project that investigated how gas pipeline engineers engaged with the Überlingen disaster in the aviation industry. Forty-three engineers attended facilitated workshops, involving a summary of the Überlingen disaster from a video, followed by extensive small group discussion. As they worked through the events at Überlingen, participants readily drew connections to their own sector, both as a way to make sense of the disaster case and to think about its implications for their work. They also linked the Überlingen case to their own experience via safety principles and other disaster cases. The lessons they drew are consistent with aviation expert analysis. However, participants focused on lessons relevant to their professional practice, rather than addressing all causal factors showing that learning from cases does not need to be mediated by prepared analyses of abstract causes. Engaging directly with the accident narrative is sufficient.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104948
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalSafety Science
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


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