The 5 Whys Detective School

Safety comes first. But how do you engage thousands of employees on 80+ vessels, and numerous onshore sites across the globe, in putting safety culture and root causes awareness on the agenda? On the same exact day and without using digital tools?

Global Safety Day

Each year, one of the world’s largest shipping companies arrange a global safety day on their ships as well as their onshore facilities. On this day, the whole organization works with a central theme concerning safety.

This year, the theme was analysing root causes using the 5 Whys framework. Workz was asked to help with designing a learning experience that was playful and easily accessible, while still allowing the employees to engage in discussions on the root causes of the most common safety issues.

The task included a range of design challenges: The solution must be a flexible and engaging workshop design that could be executed worldwide on the same exact day at numerous locations, including 80+ ships at sea.

A digital solution was out of the question because of unreliable online connections, and all physical materials had to be printed locally. In addition, it was not possible to train the workshop facilitators before the event. The process had to be very intuitive and easy to run with a minimum of preparation.

The 5 Whys Detective School

The solution developed was a simple physical tool called The 5 Whys Detective School, using storytelling and gamification to accelerate engagement and learning. The participants worked in small teams and created stories about a fictional safety incident.

They did this by combining cartoon frames in a sequence to create a storyboard about why the incident happened. The participants repeated the process by asking why five times, each time going deeper into the roots behind the incident.

A story might start with a person with a broken arm. The first “why” would be “why did he break his arm?” and the participants would create a story of a fall from a ladder. The next “why” would then focus on why the ladder was placed in an unsafe manner, and so on until the participants had determined the root cause of the issue.

The global safety day helped to strengthen the Company-wide focus on root causes and the importance of a strong safety culture. The 5 Whys Detective School concept was so well received by the participants that the company afterwards chose to nominate the solution for a global innovation award within the industry.