Tag Archives: safety

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 ››

The safety-fication of everything

3431203874_d0ec158204_zSome 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 ››

What are you reading for?

Reading booksThe 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 ››

Systems Thinking for Safety: Ten Principles (A White Paper)

10principlesIn 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 ››

Déformation professionnelle: How profession distorts perspective

167418602_4467a7bdd7If 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 ››

The use and abuse of ‘human error’

"Oh my God. I told those guys at safety that it was dangerous and one day we would lose concentration and pay for it. I already told those guys at safety that it was very dangerous! We are human and this can happen to us. This curve is inhuman!" These are the distressed words of the injured train driver moments after the train derailment in Santiago de Compostela, northern Spain on 25 July 2013. The driver can be heard pleading in sorrow, hoping for the safety … Continue Reading ››

Risky empathy

if you want to understand riskI saw this poster in an airport some time ago. It is an advert for an insurance company and shows a person in a helicopter with a note, "One thing, if you want to understand risk, you need to get out from behind your desk".  How connected are safety specialists with operational staff and the operational environment, where the day-to-day safety is created, to understand the operational world? How much of our … Continue Reading ››