LPB: Learning from Incidents

Article by Lee Allford

Experiences as a member of the Loss Prevention Bulletin Editorial Panel

AS a long-standing member of the editorial panel of the Loss Prevention Bulletin (LPB) it recently occurred to me that it would be worthwhile to emulate LPB authors and share my experiences of serving as an LPB panellist. The LPB panel reviews about 50–60 papers per year, with the majority finding publication in the Bulletin, which is published every two months. As a panel we are disposed to publishing as many good quality papers as possible and working with authors to get their draft papers ready for publication.

Undoubtedly excellent drafts from the outset will sail through the review process and can be published within 3–6 months of submission. Many submitted drafts though do require author rewrites based on reviewer comments which will extend the date to publication and inevitably a few papers are lost to the process when authors decide to withdraw.

An open review process

The review process itself is straightforward in that on receipt of a draft, the LPB editor uploads the document onto a web platform and then invites all panel members to comment on the paper, which is visible to other reviewers. Each paper has a review deadline but as a reviewer it is simple to assess how this is progressing by the weight of comments left by other panellists. Personally, I prefer this open process rather than one where as a reviewer you are invited to score a single paper in isolation against set criteria.

Transparency of the review process encourages constructive feedback on draft papers and equally, reviewers can choose not to leave any comment. With around 20 panellists of widely different backgrounds and knowledge, most papers will naturally find several reviewers who have the expertise, enthusiasm and time to make informed comment on the draft. This helps to ease the review workload immeasurably. The other principal task of the editorial panel is to procure LPB papers, and to date many panellists have authored papers or else encouraged other parties to do so. This is another plus for the LPB review process in that many panellists have first-hand experience of the authoring process.

Allied to the remote reviewing process are the 3–4 panel meetings held each year that aim is to recommend whether to publish, request rewrites or decline papers. Unsurprisingly, panel opinions tend to coalesce at either end of the quality spectrum. More debate is generated on the potential for reworking papers and whether a satisfactory end-result can be readily achieved. It may be heartening for potential authors to hear that grammar and spelling accuracy are generally held in less regard than the substance and insight on offer and especially good case studies from the sharp end of major hazards management.

So what?

Then there is the question of whether a paper, no matter how well written, belongs in the LPB. The bulletin is primarily about process safety, the sharing of good practice in the control of major hazards and, when this goes wrong, learning from experience. Its focus is both the prevention of low probability events of serious consequence and the mitigation of the effects from such events. There is room in LPB for contributions that are on the fringes of process safety but no doubt these will need to work hard to resonate with the bulk of the LPB readership. Above all, authors need to tease out the nuggets of learning, relevant to process safety professionals and practitioners, in order to pass the acid test of “so what”? For me, one of most common traps that authors fall into is to assume that facts speak for themselves without providing the accompanying analysis and interpretation. Very little on the printed page is self-evident, although good quality drawings and images can help with the narrative.


One increasing trend in recent years has been the emergence of themed LPB editions especially around the anniversary of industrial disasters such as Bhopal and Piper Alpha. Anniversary editions are an opportunity to assemble content relevant to the major accident which can either be specifically written for the edition or else recycled with the proper consents from chosen authoritative sources. The primary aim of these editions is to detail the improvements such as in legislation and standards which post event have been implemented to prevent reoccurrence. As such they provide timely and powerful reminders, particularly for young readers.

As well as accident anniversary editions, LPB has in the recent past published special themed editions on topics such as laboratory hazards, contractor safety and accident investigation and bias. Currently the Bulletin has special themed editions lined up on management of change, human factors and safety issues for small- and medium-sized enterprises. Special editions might not always end up as envisioned, especially when topics are not sufficiently meaty and then either the topic is broadened to attract enough relevant papers to support a single issue or else the papers are recycled into general LPB issues which still represent the bread and butter of the Bulletin.

Increasing outreach

For the future of the Bulletin I envisage an increasing outreach to the global process safety community both in English-speaking regions and in other parts of the world where English is not the first language; and particularly in countries such as China and Russia, both on steep learning curves as far as governance of major hazards sectors. In fact, learning opportunities exist in both directions where non-English material is translated into LPB articles and similarly where material in English is localised into different languages. A natural pathway to enable this knowledge exchange will be the continuing international composition of the LPB panel itself.

Without doubt, text-based narratives will continue to be the fundamental format for LPB content, and this will be complemented increasingly by reader-friendly graphics which will certainly help with putting across the safety message especially to global audiences. This approach is exemplified by the series of hazard toolbox talks which are available on the LPB website and the new series of story–telling cartoons which is now underway.

The LPB is keen to receive draft papers from authors and approaches from volunteers to participate in its editorial panel. Budding authors should consult our guidelines before submitting your paper to LPB Editor, Tracey Donaldson via tdonaldson@icheme.org.

For those interested in joining the LPB panel please contact Tracey Donaldson with your CV.

Article by Lee Allford

LPB Editorial Panel member

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