Sosioteknisyyden haasteet turvallisuuskriittisen teollisuuden valvonnalle: White paper

Jean-Christophe Le Coze, Kenneth Pettersen, Ole Andreas Engen, Claudia Morsut, Ruth Skotnes, Marja Ylönen, Jouko Heikkilä, Ivanne Merlele-Coze

    Research output: Book/ReportReport


    Aimed at policy makers, regulators, industry managers and other stakeholders, this white paper makes explicit some key issues for regulating safety and major accident risk within industries. Based on a sociotechnical system approach, we recommend that safety regulators shall be oriented towards operational variability and the optimisation of technical-human interactions in industrial systems, including a micro-macro scale for describing system influences on accident risks and safety outcomes. In the paper, we discuss how and why current regulatory approaches to safety lack focus on the dynamics of safety within industries and the relationships between safety outcomes and systemic factors, such as regulatory culture, labour relations and evolving modes of production. For example, globalisation processes are increasing in frequency and speed across industries, shaping new operational constraints on high-risk systems. New interconnected systems following the digitalisation of information and communication technology, the liberalisation of trade and finance, deregulation and privatisation agendas are other examples of supranational processes creating new environments for high-risk companies, responsible states and civil society. The implications for major accident risk following such wide-scoped transformations are not straightforward and have to be understood in relation to their industrial contexts. In order to address changes in society, accident models and regulatory practices have to be broadened and developed beyond today's focus of monitoring compliance. This paper gives an overview of how sociotechnical system ideas have developed in association with industrial safety and maps the conceptual foundations for current regulatory methods and practices. Sociotechnical system models are also described, demonstrating different ways of representing major accident risks and safety from sociotechnical system perspectives. Safety is explained as a dynamic property of systems determined in relation to industrial contexts. Safety is situational and a property in continuous development, on the one side relying on a systems structured processes and formalised situations such as accident investigations, audits, inspection and meetings while on the other side being symbolic and related to a syst ms culture, power relations, trust and human emotions. Consequently, several domains of knowledge interact, and we present a framework for knowledge about safety that includes 1) engineering and technology, 2) human and organisational factors, 3) strategy and management and 4) politics and governance. The implications of such a framework for proactive approaches to regulation are discussed in the paper, focusing on possible regulatory strategies for moving forward. Our approach raises regulatory implications that connect to the potential safety benefit of increasing proactive investigations as well as strategies focusing on the strengthening of safety structures and risk awareness processes within companies. In addition, we highlight the importance of systemic issues for regulation. Among other areas, the increasing pace of developments within information technology and automation as well as the extensive organisational changes within many industries following globalisation suggests the need to improve strategies for monitoring systemic trends and finding appropriate ways to regulate safety when systems become globalised. We suggest that it may also be possible to improve industries' management of major accident risks by encouraging strategies for 1) auditing the regulatory systems, 2) supporting networks of safety and reliability professionals and 3) monitoring precursor conditions in relation to change.
    Original languageEnglish
    Place of PublicationEspoo
    PublisherVTT Technical Research Centre of Finland
    Number of pages40
    ISBN (Electronic)978-951-38-8522-9
    ISBN (Print)978-951-38-8523-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    MoE publication typeD4 Published development or research report or study

    Publication series

    SeriesVTT Technology


    • sociotechnical
    • regulation
    • compliance
    • safety
    • high-risk industries


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