Lesson Learned Program

Incident Near-Miss Good Work Practice New Safetye Information

Explanation of the Lesson Learned program  

The phrase “lessons learned,” under the EH&S program, is often used to mean any experiences or observations of a problem or of a success. For example, over 20 lessons have been captured and disseminated over the past 10 years at Georgetown. These are provided in Chemical Hygiene Plans and are reinvigorated after observations made during inspections and surveillances.  

In our communications, there are occasional generic references to lessons learned reports, lessons learned initiatives, and lessons learned practices. To be accurate, we need to recognize the difference between an observation, a lesson identified, and an actual lesson learned, and to recognize that lessons can be learned from both positive experiences (“best” or “good” practices) and problems.

An observation is a basic description of an operating experience, either a problem or a success. The experience has been identified and documented in some way as an issue for improvement or a potential “best practice.”

best practice can be defined as a positive example of work processes with the potential to be the basis for significant operational improvements or cost savings. (The phrase “good practice” might be more accurate, because “best” implies a single best approach requiring no change.). A lesson identified is an observation that has been subjected to additional analysis (e.g., by faculty, Joint Safety Team, or Safety Committees) to identify such things as potential future consequences or impact, possible root causes, and/or appropriate remedial or corrective action. A lesson learned is an implemented solution that leads to improved performance or changed behavior. For a lesson to become learned it needs support along the way. It must become known (disseminated, explained, and taught) and its recommended (and vetted) solutions must be infused into behavior expectations and job requirements.

Lessons Learned Report enables an organization to document a project’s challenges and successes to understand causes of difficulties and to achieve greater success in the future. The benefits of looking back at past experience include process improvement, risk management, hazard reduction, and other project activities. This facilitates Georgetown University’s continual  improvement.

Basic elements in Lessons Learned Reports, include: 

  1. A clear statement of the lesson. 
  2. A background summary of how the lesson was learned.
  3. Benefits of using the lesson and suggestion on how the lesson may be used in the future.
  4. Contact information for additional detail.
  5. Priority descriptor that assigns a level of significance to the lesson: 
    • Red/Urgent: A lesson from an actual event with adverse consequences.
    • Yellow/Caution: A lesson from a potential event or condition.
    • Blue/Information: A fact or discovery of benefit to the Georgetown community, or other universities.
    • Green/Good Work Practice: A practice promoting or resulting in a positive outcome; a success story.