SAW-IT (Self-Administered Witness – Interview Tool) is a bespoke version of the SAI specifically developed for industrial/organisational settings.
Drawing on our experience of working in high reliability industry and prior work on safety related projects, the development of the SAW-IT focused on obtaining and preserving high quality witness information – particularly in contexts when it may take some time for an accident investigator to conduct a formal interview.
The SAW-IT draws on the occupational and cognitive psychology literature on basic risk factors, psychology-based models of causation, human factors, safety culture, etc.
How can the SAW-IT contribute to accident and incident investigation?
Accident and incident investigation is frequently cited as the cornerstone of an effective occupational health and safety program (Kelloway, Stinson & Maclean, 2004). As such, the recording of accurate accident/incident and data is vital for improvement within an organisation’s health and safety culture, and essential for the enhancement of an organisation’s overall cost effectiveness. At present, to our knowledge, no standardised accident/incident reporting form exists across many high reliability industries – such as the oil and gas industry sector. Instead organisations have tended to develop their own specific forms, many of which lack any firm theoretical background or framework (Mearns, Whitaker, Flin, Gordon & O’Connor, 2003). In addition reporting methodologies within this sector have demonstrated a tendency to be vulnerable to underreporting, incomplete recording and frequently do not provide a complete picture of the conditions under which the accidents/incidents have taken place (Stoop, 1997).
There is a profound lack of research within the health and safety literature relating to the fallibility of memory (Kelloway et al, 2004). For example, a significant problem for many investigations is the delay incurred between employees witnessing or being involved in an accident or incident, and providing a statement. The quality of information obtained about an event is time-critical, not only because memory is prone to rapid decay but also because memory is fallible, and vulnerable to the influence of post-event information. Both of these factors have been proven to compromise recall completeness and accuracy (see Ayers & Reder, 1998; Gabbert, Memon & Allan, 2003). The quality of information obtained is also dependent on the nature of the interview. Put simply, interviews comprising poorly-phrased questions produce limited information with a high probability of error. Indeed, the literature on accident investigations generally offers only elementary suggestions on interview techniques (Montgomery & Kelloway, 2002). In contrast, a theoretically derived protocol of questions and techniques based upon ‘best practice’ interview guidelines can enhance the amount of accurate information reported.
The SAW-IT is a specially tailored version of the SAI which incorporates appropriate cues to facilitate the remembering and reporting of incident-relevant information, including information about contributory and/or causal factors, etc. Given the importance of accident and incident data in determining safety policy and procedure, it is, in our view, of vital importance to obtain high-quality information in an investigation, using purpose-based investigatory tools such as the tailored SAW-IT.