KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • This article provides a systematic thinking approach using human and organizational performance fundamentals and analysis techniques to improve safety performance. The techniques described apply to individuals, leaders and the overall organization.

  • The authors present a six-part model based on the philosophy that to reduce errors and eliminate events of consequence, adequate human performance tools and defenses must be in place.

  • The theory aspects are presented, as well as several real-life examples from various industries where applying the correct actions or methods leads to improved, consistent results.

In today's business world, success necessitates meeting more than the required minimum standards (regulations). Safety performance is about individuals, leaders and the organization working together using safety (human) performance fundamentals and tools to protect personnel, property and the place (environment).

Safety has come a long way since the 1970s. For years, traditional safety focused on separating individual pieces of the process to obtain results. A systemic approach to safety performance is fundamentally different from traditional safety in that it focuses on the safety process.

A high performing organization is grounded on five fundamental safety performance principles:

  • People make errors.

  • Organizational values and programs influence behaviors.

  • Behaviors are influenced by what is encouraged and reinforced.

  • Errors and risk can be reduced through the use of safety performance tools.

  • Events can be eliminated through the use of defenses.

Senge (2006) defines system thinking as "a way of thinking about, and a language for describing and understanding, the forces and interrelationships that shape the behavior of systems."

Systems thinking focuses on how people interact with the others in a system, "a set of elements that interact to produce behavior" (Aronson, 1996). Systems thinking expands its view to take into account increasingly larger numbers of behavior interactions (organization, leader, individual) in a system (the process) that produces desired results.

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