Inderscience Publishers

Learning in emergency organisations: trial without error

Extremely hazardous operations require organisations to rely on other forms of learning mechanisms than experimentation and trial-and-error. Studies of high-risk organisations reveal that despite the trying conditions they are operating within, some of these organisations display outstanding safety records. The paper reports results from a contingency study on organisational learning within the emergency organisation of a petroleum production company operating in the North Sea. Results show that there are multiple learning activities within an emergency organisation. This broad action repertoire includes different levels of information richness, collective practice and pro-active focus. Despite this variability, employees may experience a lack of consistency in practicing the learning activities. The lack of consistency is grounded in a set of overall restricting mechanisms such as priority, competence and variation.

Keywords: emergency organisation, learning, organisational knowledge mechanisms, barriers, high reliability organisations

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