ASCE-ASME Journal of Risk and Uncertainty in Engineering Systems, Part B: Mechanical Engineering
Guest Editor: Raphael Moura, Luca Podofillini, Michael Beer
Complex industrial systems are inarguably subjected to major hazards, which are of great concern to businesses, governments, communities and wider stakeholder groups. Accordingly, efforts are increasingly made to control these hazards and manage risks, supported by improved computational capabilities and the application of sophisticated safety and reliability models.
Recent events, however, have revealed that apparently rare or seemingly unforeseen scenarios, involving interactions between human factors, technologies and organisations, can trigger major accidents and lead to catastrophic consequences. For instance, the investigation results of the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, in which eleven men were killed and almost five million barrels of oil were spilled, and the Rio-Paris Flight 447 crash, which resulted in 228 fatalities, highlighted human-related issues as pivotal to the disasters. Factors such as poor communication, human failures to interpret
some information, delays to react to undesirable signals, unsatisfactory safety culture, worker underperformance and management issues were found to have interacted with engineering systems to produce these undesirable outcomes.
The understanding of human behavioural characteristics, interlaced with current technology aspects and organisational context, seems to be of paramount importance for the safety & reliability field, in particular the role of non-technical competences, such as communication skills, leadership, decision-making capabilities and risk awareness. Additionally, contemporary regulatory approaches should be able to go beyond rules of compliance and establish risk-based and goal-setting models, in order to challenge academics and industry to develop new methods to assess human performance and anticipate critical issues.