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A risk interpretation of sociotechnical safety perspectives

Terje Aven and Ylönen, Marja

Reliability Engineering and System Safety, 2018, vol. 175, issue C, 13-18

Abstract: This paper addresses ‘sociotechnical perspectives on safety’, highlighting common ideas and principles for understanding, studying and managing the safety of sociotechnical systems, such as high-risk industries. These perspectives can be characterised in different ways, but, for the purpose of the present paper, three features are focused on: i) that a holistic view is needed to manage safety, covering knowledge from different disciplines (technology, social sciences, etc.), ii) that complex systems cannot be fully predicted and controlled, and iii) that safety management consequently needs to highlight robustness and resilience in addition to risk analysis. Some works have been conducted to understand these perspectives in relation to risk, risk analysis and risk management, but most of these have been based on traditional concepts and approaches to risk, using quantitative probabilistic risk assessments. In this paper we revisit the issue, using more recent ideas and approaches for understanding, assessing and managing risk, where uncertainty is a main component of risk. We show that, when framed according to these ideas and approaches, the risk field can provide a supporting platform for the sociotechnical perspectives and supplement the types of means to properly manage safety. Some implications for safety and risk regulation are also discussed.

Date: 2018
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