Following most major accidents, one phrase is almost guaranteed to headline in the popular press: ‘human error’. The concept is also popular in the ergonomics and human factors (EHF) discipline and profession; it is probably among the most profitable in terms of research and consultancy dollars. While seductively simple to the layperson, it comes with a variety of meanings and interpretations with respect to causation and culpability. With its evocative associations, synonyms, and position in our own … Continue Reading ››
Some time ago, I noticed the safety-fication of everything. I noticed that otherwise fairly ordinary words have been co-opted to give a specific safety meaning. Once I noticed this, I couldn't stop noticing it. So a few months ago, I started to log two-word safety terms (and a few three-word terms) that I encountered when reading and communicating with others. The log literally led to an A-Z of terms, which I have included below.
The terms are very different in terms of … Continue Reading ››
The comedian Bill Hicks died just over 20 years ago. He was not 'just a comedian'. He was a social critic and stand-up philosopher. There were few others like him at the time, and few others have come near him since. Freedom of thought and speech were at the core of what Hicks did. He believed that popular culture was a passive, silenced and dumbed-down culture - one that is easier to control. He encouraged people to think, to question everything: "Folks, … Continue Reading ››
"If only it weren’t for the people, the goddamned people,” said Finnerty,“always getting tangled up in the machinery. If it weren’t for them, earth would be an engineer’s paradise.”
In Kurt Vonnegut’s dystopian novel ‘Player Piano’, automation has replaced most human labour. Anything that can be automated, is automated. Ordinary people have been robbed of their work, and with it purpose, meaning and satisfaction, leaving the managers, scientists and engineers to run the show. Dr Paul Proteus … Continue Reading ››
In September 2013, a White Paper was released by EUROCONTROL on a different way of thinking about safety: Safety-II. For me, Safety-II is no less than a paradigm shift in safety, bringing together various strands of thought, by various different people, that have unfolded for some time. The juxtaposition of Safety-I and Safety-II has provided a way of comparing two ways of looking and thinking about safety and systems which … Continue Reading ››
In September, a EUROCONTROL Network Manager White Paper was released, entitled Systems Thinking for Safety: Ten Principles. The White Paper was a collaboration of EUROCONTROL, DFS, nine other air navigation service providers and three pilot and controller associations. The purpose is to encourage a systems thinking approach among all system stakeholders to help make sense of – and improve – system performance. The Executive Summary of the … Continue Reading ››
Most of us in democratic countries would hate to see the rise authoritarianism. When we hear about authoritarian regimes around the world, we feel lucky not to live there. We know that people do not thrive under authoritarianism, where high levels of control suppress the human connectivity, freedom and creativity that give meaning and purpose to life. The same is true of organisations, but here we seem to have to put up with it.
In 2012, the UK’s Chartered Management Institute released a report … Continue Reading ››
Almost a year ago on the this blog, Sidney Dekker asked “Can safety renew itself?“. He asked whether the profession was even capable of doing this, with its goal to eliminate what goes wrong; “For a profession that is organized around the elimination, reduction and control of risk, innovation can be a tall order“. Since then, there has been progress. Significantly, a new way of looking at safety has further emerged – … Continue Reading ››
If you work in a health and safety role, there is one question that can make for an awkward conversation: "So, what do you do?" I was asked this question at passport control on entering the UK on my Australian passport. I considered my options: safety specialist, ergonomist or psychologist. All three come with baggage; they trigger different preconceptions. As he was an immigration officer in the border security business, I replied "I'm a safety officer", modifying … Continue Reading ››