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Is Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) a New Approach to Safety?
I was approached last week by a potential customer who wanted to know if our software supported, “the latest safety strategy called Human and Organizational Performance (HOP)”.
The basic concept as he explained it was that HOP implementations are based on recognizing that human error is inevitable, that safety improvement efforts should be focused on understanding and mitigating systems and processes that put workers at risk, and this will replace Behavior-Based Safety (BBS) programs that, “blame workers’ for their actions”.
Where to begin… As often happens, there really isn’t much new under the sun – just new packaging for ideas and concepts that sometimes have been around for a long time. Take the idea of HOP as a new concept. Years ago, when I was just a little boy on the safety trail, I was taught that the purpose of incident and close call investigations was to identify and mitigate the hazard. There was a proscribed hierarchy to do this:
- Eliminate the hazard by changing the process/materials; or
- Engineer a new process that reduced the risk; or
- Modify work practice, or educate workers on the hazards to make them more aware (and hopefully more careful); or
- Implement PP&E to shelter the worker from the hazard.
At a simple level, that sounds a lot like HOP to me. And there is plenty of precedent for using this discipline. One of the reasons that we enjoy an incredibly safe flying experience is due to the complete and open system of incident investigation run by the Federal Aviation Administration from which results are shared with all concerned to improve our chances of making it to New York from Denver on flight 374.
With respect to Behavior-Based Safety programs, I suggest that only a poor implementation of a program results in a “blame game”. Really good safety professionals understand that BBS is a cultural imperative as well as a set of processes and procedures intended to raise awareness of types of behavior that put workers at risk, without placing blame. Done well, BBS programs educate workers, shift cultural attitudes to encourage thinking twice about the approach to hazardous tasks and have dramatically reduced incident rates and lost time for millions of workers worldwide.
The safety record of companies of all kinds has improved dramatically in the last 30 years as processes, procedures and tools that support safer work have been implemented. Those practices have evolved during that time as our accumulated knowledge has grown and been applied in ever more effective ways. There may not be much new under the sun, but most things certainly improve with time and development.
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