IWA Publishing

Managing incidents in the water utility sector – towards high reliability?


Do water utilities exhibit characteristics of high organisational reliability? Here, the reported characteristics of high reliability organisations (HROs) were explored within a regional water utility, and specifically within their incident response team. We found the utility well positioned to manage incidents and that many HRO principles were identifiable as management practice under these trying conditions. The observance of HRO principles contributed to the resilience of the organisation and toward the maintenance of a safe and reliable drinking water supply. An investigation of technical reliability in the system showed that the utility invested heavily in automated monitoring and control systems and took a differentiated, risk-based approach towards resource allocation to that of HROs, which maintain existing technology with zero tolerance of defective, substandard or malfunctioning equipment.

Keywords: high reliability organisations, incident impacts, managing incidents, risk

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