A (short) study on the impact of changes on industrial safety

Abstract : Following incidents and accidents, it appears that, when reading investigations reports, changes always play an important part in the genesis of these events. Yet the problem of change is quite complicated because it includes a wide range of issues, better identified in favour of hindsight. It is indeed much more difficult to predict beforehand those changes that will combine together to lead to a specific unexpected scenario. In order to approach this problem in a way that is manageable and not too ambitious given the complexity of the topic, a short study has been designed to start with, in an industry where installations are simple and number of employees exploiting them limited. Silos were in that respect a good industrial setting for a case study. Silos are exploited by a small amount of people, are relatively simple technologically speaking and decentralised entities within bigger organisational structures, comprising traditional functional departments (maintenance, safety, quality, production). The study consisted in visiting and interviewing within a three days period one site (3 persons) and key people of the organisation (6 persons from various core departments: human resources, safety, maintenance...). The methodology followed for this study was to question all the interviewees about the changes that they could think of in the past, present and in the future in relation with their work, without imposing a specific typology of changes to them. One idea was to represent subsequently a graphic representation (a kind of map) of all changes (past, present and future) according to several categories that would emerge from the interviews. This map would serve as a basis for identifying different potential connections between identified changes, and trying to enhance the ability to locate what might be in the future, based on current trends, consecutive safety problems. This exercise triggers a lot of interesting questions about for instance the frames, schemas or models underlying selections of changes that are seen relevant regarding their impact on safety. Past experience and theorising do play a key role in this process as much as imagination. In this paper, the process and outcomes of this study (including the results of a feedback session to the company planned for the end of February 2010) will be introduced and discussed.
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Jean-Christophe Le Coze, Romuald Perinet. A (short) study on the impact of changes on industrial safety. 5. International Conference Working on safetynet, Sep 2010, Roros, Norway. ⟨ineris-00973584⟩

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