Tag Archives: safety II

I am not a policy wonk

I coined the term ‘Safety Differently’ in 2012. It was the header of an email I sent to a motley group of company representatives—from Laing O’Rourke, Sunstate Cement, Queensland Rail, Origin Energy and others. I had newly arrived in Australia and had been approached by them to help critically examine the sense of safety ‘getting stuck,’ of a pervasive compliance culture that no longer generated much progress. In the email to invite them to a new round of … Continue Reading ››

Why do things go right?

Photo by Josue Isai Ramos Figueroa on Unsplash
In his 2014 Safety I and Safety II: The past and future of safety management, Erik Hollnagel makes the argument that we should not (just) try to stop things from going wrong. Instead, we need to understand why most things go right, and then ensure that as much as possible indeed goes right. It seems so obvious. Yet it is light years away from how most organizations … Continue Reading ››

The varieties of human work

Understanding and improving human work is relevant to most people in the world, and a number of professions are dedicated to improving human work (e.g. human factors/ergonomics, quality management, industrial/work/organizational psychology; management science). The trouble with many of these professions is that the language and methods mystify rather than demystify. Work becomes something incomprehensible and hard to think about and improve by those who actually design and do the work.  Recently, some notions that help to demystify work have gained popular acceptance. One of these … Continue Reading ››

Bad Seamanship: Is that so?

pexels-photo-largePicture the scene: The car carrier Hoegh Osaka has just departed from the port of Southampton, at which point the master calls up the mate and says that the ship did “not feel right”, to which the mate in charge at the loading computer replies “I am working on it”. Soon afterwards the vessel runs aground and eventually capsizes, leading to a catastrophic accident off the port approaches. The investigation into the case finds that the vessel was … Continue Reading ››

The Limits of Safety Differently?

DSCN5361I was having a discussion the other day with a colleague about how Safety Differently fits in different organizations. Some organizations we’ve encountered are hungry for something new. They realize that the same-old safety approaches are not getting them the results they would like and are actively seeking a different approach. Obviously these organizations are ripe for a discussion about Safety Differently. But what about others who, as some describe, are not as far along? For example, in … Continue Reading ››

Case study: Timing is everything; FRAM for train departures

photo-1415368893216-efb8c4fb04e0In this case study I would like to show a practical application of the Functional Resonance Analysis Method (FRAM) to investigate the process of trains departing the station. The reason for analyzing this process, is that Signal Passed At Danger (SPAD) incidents have a specific category that deals with situations where this incident happens just after leaving the station. So in that case, the first signal seen from the station platform is passed while it shows … Continue Reading ››

Weak and invisible safety leadership?

photo-1444312645910-ffa973656ebaEvery now and then I meet people who claim that what is needed to improve safety is ‘strong and visible safety leadership’. I sort of get what they mean with ‘visible leadership’ (that leaders can be seen doing the right things), but the rest is confusing. Strong? How strong exactly? Strong in order to do what? What do you mean by ‘leadership’? And what do you mean by ‘safety’ anyway? Further exploration of the idea … Continue Reading ››

Emergence of Safety-III

During engineering school in the late 1960s I was taught to ignore friction as a force and use first order approximate linear models. When measuring distance, ignore the curvature of earth and treat as a straight line. Break things down into its parts, analyze each component, fix it, and then put it all back together. In the 1990s another paradigm coined Systems Thinking came about we … Continue Reading ››

Safety Perspectives and Running

UntitledDuring a running training with 15 fellow runners, we had a half hour work-out on stairs that ran along the fire station of my hometown (see picture). The question that arose, after having done this intense but fulfilling training, was about safety. Was this a safely performed training exercise? And this depends a lot on your definition of safety. I will approach this question using the two perspectives Safety I and Safety II. Safety as the absence of … Continue Reading ››

Is ‘human error’ the handicap of human factors? A discussion among human factors specialists.

DSCN0484Following 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 ››