The Field Guide to Understanding Human Error

Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
7
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When faced with a human error problem, you may be tempted to ask 'Why didn't they watch out better? How could they not have noticed?'. You think you can solve your human error problem by telling people to be more careful, by reprimanding the miscreants, by issuing a new rule or procedure. These are all expressions of 'The Bad Apple Theory', where you believe your system is basically safe if it were not for those few unreliable people in it. This old view of human error is increasingly outdated and will lead you nowhere. The new view, in contrast, understands that a human error problem is actually an organizational problem. Finding a 'human error' by any other name, or by any other human, is only the beginning of your journey, not a convenient conclusion. The new view recognizes that systems are inherent trade-offs between safety and other pressures (for example: production). People need to create safety through practice, at all levels of an organization. Breaking new ground beyond its successful predecessor, The Field Guide to Understanding Human Error guides you through the traps and misconceptions of the old view. It explains how to avoid the hindsight bias, to zoom out from the people closest in time and place to the mishap, and resist the temptation of counterfactual reasoning and judgmental language. But it also helps you look forward. It suggests how to apply the new view in building your safety department, handling questions about accountability, and constructing meaningful countermeasures. It even helps you in getting your organization to adopt the new view and improve its learning from failure. So if you are faced by a human error problem, abandon the fallacy of a quick fix. Read this book.
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About the author

Sidney Dekker is Professor and Director of the Key Centre for Ethics, Law, Justice and Governance at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. Previously Professor at Lund University, Sweden, and Director of the Leonardo Da Vinci Center for Complexity and Systems Thinking there, he gained his Ph.D. in Cognitive Systems Engineering from The Ohio State University, USA. He has worked in New Zealand, the Netherlands and England, been Senior Fellow at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, Visiting Academic in the Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Monash University in Melbourne, and Professor of Community Health Science at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Manitoba in Canada. Sidney is author of several best-selling books on system failure, human error, ethics and governance. He has been flying the Boeing 737NG part-time as airline pilot for the past few years. The OSU Foundation in the United States awards a yearly Sidney Dekker Critical Thinking Award.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.
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Published on
Mar 28, 2013
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Pages
252
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ISBN
9781472408419
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Human Resources & Personnel Management
Business & Economics / Labor
Technology & Engineering / Engineering (General)
Technology & Engineering / Industrial Health & Safety
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The second edition of a bestseller, Safety Differently: Human Factors for a New Era is a complete update of Ten Questions About Human Error: A New View of Human Factors and System Safety. Today, the unrelenting pace of technology change and growth of complexity calls for a different kind of safety thinking. Automation and new technologies have resulted in new roles, decisions, and vulnerabilities whilst practitioners are also faced with new levels of complexity, adaptation, and constraints. It is becoming increasingly apparent that conventional approaches to safety and human factors are not equipped to cope with these challenges and that a new era in safety is necessary.

In addition to new material covering changes in the field during the past decade, the book takes a new approach to discussing safety. The previous edition looked critically at the answers human factors would typically provide and compared/contrasted them with current research and insights at that time. The edition explains how to turn safety from a bureaucratic accountability back into an ethical responsibility for those who do our dangerous work, and how to embrace the human factor not as a problem to control, but as a solution to harness.

See What’s in the New Edition:

New approach reflects changes in the field Updated coverage of system safety and technology changes Latest human factors/ergonomics research applicable to safety

Organizations, companies, and industries are faced with new demands and pressures resulting from the dynamics and nature of the modern marketplace and from the development and introduction of new technologies. This new era calls for a different kind of safety thinking, a thinking that sees people as the source of diversity, insight, creativity, and wisdom about safety, not as the source of risk that undermines an otherwise safe system. It calls for a kind of thinking that is quicker to trust people and mistrust bureaucracy, and that is more committed to actually preventing harm than to looking good. This book takes a forward-looking and assertively progressive view that prepares you to resolve current safety issues in any field.

Safety has traditionally been defined as a condition where the number of adverse outcomes was as low as possible (Safety-I). From a Safety-I perspective, the purpose of safety management is to make sure that the number of accidents and incidents is kept as low as possible, or as low as is reasonably practicable. This means that safety management must start from the manifestations of the absence of safety and that - paradoxically - safety is measured by counting the number of cases where it fails rather than by the number of cases where it succeeds. This unavoidably leads to a reactive approach based on responding to what goes wrong or what is identified as a risk - as something that could go wrong. Focusing on what goes right, rather than on what goes wrong, changes the definition of safety from ’avoiding that something goes wrong’ to ’ensuring that everything goes right’. More precisely, Safety-II is the ability to succeed under varying conditions, so that the number of intended and acceptable outcomes is as high as possible. From a Safety-II perspective, the purpose of safety management is to ensure that as much as possible goes right, in the sense that everyday work achieves its objectives. This means that safety is managed by what it achieves (successes, things that go right), and that likewise it is measured by counting the number of cases where things go right. In order to do this, safety management cannot only be reactive, it must also be proactive. But it must be proactive with regard to how actions succeed, to everyday acceptable performance, rather than with regard to how they can fail, as traditional risk analysis does. This book analyses and explains the principles behind both approaches and uses this to consider the past and future of safety management practices. The analysis makes use of common examples and cases from domains such as aviation, nuclear power production, process management and health care. The final chapters explain the theoret
What does the collapse of sub-prime lending have in common with a broken jackscrew in an airliner’s tailplane? Or the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico with the burn-up of Space Shuttle Columbia? These were systems that drifted into failure. While pursuing success in a dynamic, complex environment with limited resources and multiple goal conflicts, a succession of small, everyday decisions eventually produced breakdowns on a massive scale. We have trouble grasping the complexity and normality that gives rise to such large events. We hunt for broken parts, fixable properties, people we can hold accountable. Our analyses of complex system breakdowns remain depressingly linear, depressingly componential - imprisoned in the space of ideas once defined by Newton and Descartes. The growth of complexity in society has outpaced our understanding of how complex systems work and fail. Our technologies have gotten ahead of our theories. We are able to build things - deep-sea oil rigs, jackscrews, collateralized debt obligations - whose properties we understand in isolation. But in competitive, regulated societies, their connections proliferate, their interactions and interdependencies multiply, their complexities mushroom. This book explores complexity theory and systems thinking to understand better how complex systems drift into failure. It studies sensitive dependence on initial conditions, unruly technology, tipping points, diversity - and finds that failure emerges opportunistically, non-randomly, from the very webs of relationships that breed success and that are supposed to protect organizations from disaster. It develops a vocabulary that allows us to harness complexity and find new ways of managing drift.
Many 21st century operations are characterised by teams of workers dealing with significant risks and complex technology, in competitive, commercially-driven environments. Informed managers in such sectors have realised the necessity of understanding the human dimension to their operations if they hope to improve production and safety performance. While organisational safety culture is a key determinant of workplace safety, it is also essential to focus on the non-technical skills of the system operators based at the 'sharp end' of the organisation. These skills are the cognitive and social skills required for efficient and safe operations, often termed Crew Resource Management (CRM) skills. In industries such as civil aviation, it has long been appreciated that the majority of accidents could have been prevented if better non-technical skills had been demonstrated by personnel operating and maintaining the system. As a result, the aviation industry has pioneered the development of CRM training. Many other organisations are now introducing non-technical skills training, most notably within the healthcare sector. Safety at the Sharp End is a general guide to the theory and practice of non-technical skills for safety. It covers the identification, training and evaluation of non-technical skills and has been written for use by individuals who are studying or training these skills on CRM and other safety or human factors courses. The material is also suitable for undergraduate and post-experience students studying human factors or industrial safety programmes.
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