Safety Book Club


One of the tragic findings of research on major accidents is that the companies concerned had failed to learn from previous major accident events. To learn from those events we need to study the accounts that have been written of them, and that study needs to be as active as possible. Some companies have set up “book clubs” or discussion groups which take a particular book and study it chapter by chapter, week by week. Book club meetings can be made more effective if they are guided by a set of questions. A set of 
questions, developed by Andrew Hopkins is now available to be used with his books: 

How to run a book club 

There are various ways that book clubs might be run. 

  1. Face to face groups of up to 15 people 
  2. Larger video-conference groups 
  3. Email bulletin board discussions, where the bulletin board remains open for a week and participants make their contributions during this time period 
  4. Forum within web based training program 


Book club meetings have become a very productive way of upholding safety awareness and bringing consideration to any existing or evolving hazards and risks and learning from previous major accidents. The leader can bounce off the experience of participants, and use that experience to emphasise the importance of a concept. It provokes active employee participation with lessons learnt from previous accidents and in applying the lessons to the circumstances within your organisation. These question sets have been developed by Andrew Hopkins to accompany his books to ensure active learning. 

How to use the question sets 

The book club leader will choose one or more chapters to be read each week. Not all questions will be relevant for all audiences and the leader should identify which of the listed questions should be 
addressed. The leader may also add additional questions that are relevant to the particular 

For many book club groups, later chapters in the books may not lend themselves to discussion as much as 
earlier chapters and fewer questions are listed. In particular the chapters on regulation may be irrelevant for most groups and could be skipped. When reading these chapters, you should focus your reading in such a way as to help you answer the questions. But you should also identify (highlight) things that you 
find interesting or want to talk about, including things that you don’t understand. The leader may find it useful to start with your observations and issues before moving to the set questions. 

Shell's Safety Book Club Success Story

In another organisation that I have worked with, an inspirational leader had developed some interesting strategies for learning from incidents. Her organisation had had a practice of sending out bulletins and notifications about incidents, with little apparent effect. Accordingly, she had organised a “process safety book club” and had chosen easy-to-read books on process safety accidents. She held regular video-conferenced discussions on various chapters, followed up by quizzes. In this way, she turned what might otherwise have been a passive learning activity into a far more active experience. Membership of the club was voluntary, but there were hundreds of participants, including some very senior executive managers. She was seeking to create a “culture of reading” about process safety, she said. The book club was part of a broader process safety campaign, the theme of which was “preventing incidents through learning from others”.
— Andrew Hopkins, Disastrous Decisions Book 2012, pp. 120-121 The organisation and leader mentioned - Shell Petroleum, Nnene Anochie, C.U.
…individuals will only learn the lessons of previous incidents if the organisations that they belong to understand the need for such individual learning and create the conditions under which the learning can occur. It is organisations that need to foster the kinds of storytelling from which everyone can learn.
— Andrew Hopkins, Disastrous Decisions Book 2012, pp. 121