Sociotechnical attributes of safe and unsafe work systems
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Theoretical and practical approaches to safety based on sociotechnical systems principles place heavy emphasis on the intersections between social–organisational and technical–work process factors. Within this perspective, work system design emphasises factors such as the joint optimisation of social and technical processes, a focus on reliable human–system performance and safety metrics as design and analysis criteria, the maintenance of a realistic and consistent set of safety objectives and policies, and regular access to the expertise and input of workers. We discuss three current approaches to the analysis and design of complex sociotechnical systems: human–systems integration, macroergonomics and safety climate. Each approach emphasises key sociotechnical systems themes, and each prescribes a more holistic perspective on work systems than do traditional theories and methods. We contrast these perspectives with historical precedents such as system safety and traditional human factors and ergonomics, and describe potential future directions for their application in research and practice.
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