The purpose of this blog post is to define what is meant by the term safety- critical industry and to identify the tensions and trade-offs at play in these complex organisational settings in which my research is situated.
Falla defines safety-critical systems as ones “which need to possess the highest levels of safety integrity, where malfunction would lead to the most serious consequences” (Falla, 1997, p2). Wears describes safety-critical industries as “complex socio technical systems comprised of people in multiple roles and their societal and technical artifacts” (Wears, 2012, p4561). Combining these two definitions, a safety-critical industry can be said to be a system comprising individuals, technology and organisations in which safety is of paramount importance and where the consequences of failure or malfunction may be loss of life or serious injury, serious environmental damage, or harm to plant or property. A number of authors exemplify this broad definition of safety-critical industries by listing specific industry sectors which exhibit these characteristics. Commonly quoted examples of such industries are nuclear power plants, off-shore oil platforms, chemical plants, commercial aviation, and rail transport (Baron & Pate-Cornell, 1999; Amalberti, 2001; Kontogiannis, 2011; Wears, 2012). Continue reading Safety–critical industries: definitions, tensions and tradeoffs