Reflecting on Jens Rasmussen’s legacy. A strong program for a hard problem

Abstract : Jens Rasmussen has been a very influential thinker for the last quarter of the 20th century in the safety science field and especially in major hazard prevention. He shaped many of the basic assumptions regarding safety and accidents which are still held today. One can see that many of his ideas underlie more recent advances in this field. Indeed, in the first decade of the 21st century, many have been inspired by his propositions and have pursued their own research agendas by using, extending or criticising his ideas. The author of numerous articles, chapters of books and books, Rasmussen had an inspiring scientific research record spreading over 30 years, expanding across the boundaries of many scientific disciplines. This article introduces selected elements of Rasmussen’s legacy, including the SRK model, his theoretical approach of errors, the issue of investigating accidents, his model of migration and the sociotechnical view. It will be demonstrated that Jens Rasmussen provided key concepts for understanding safety and accidents, many of which are still relevant today. In particular, this article introduces how some principles such as degree of freedom, self organisation and adaptation, defence in depth fallacy but also the notion of error as "unsuccessful experiment with unacceptable consequences" still offer powerful insights into the challenge of predicting and preventing major accidents. It is also argued that they combine into a specific interpretation of the "normal accident" debate, anticipating current trends based on complexity lenses. Overall, Jens Rasmussen defines the contours of what is called "a strong program for a hard problem".
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Submitted on : Wednesday, August 8, 2018 - 11:44:08 AM
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Jean-Christophe Le Coze. Reflecting on Jens Rasmussen’s legacy. A strong program for a hard problem. Safety Science, Elsevier, 2015, 71, pp.123-141. ⟨10.1016/j.ssci.2014.03.015⟩. ⟨ineris-01855580⟩

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