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Human and Organizational Performance: Is it time to change your approach to safety process control?

Sponsored Article by Scott Gaddis

Human and Organizational Performance systems, better known as HOP, have garnered much recent discussion and interest by many organizations, who see it as a better approach to improving safety performance. The premise of HOP is the idea that human error is inevitable so perhaps through better process systems management and analysis, organizations might lessen the effect of human error through the promotion of defenses that reduce risk.

It is with this thinking that organizations can build management system robustness by understanding how workers perform their daily work tasks and then understanding what the gaps or errors are within the management system and close the gaps through what is commonly referred to as defenses.

The addition of conversation is imperative for HOP and most critical to success. Active listening and learning, meaning “worker to worker and worker to management” and with learning teams are
necessary to understand where failure is prone to result in some type of loss. It’s a look back at past events where a loss was experienced; it’s a view at the present where errors are armed
and ready to strike, and it’s an eye into the future where we have the concern that continuing certain job tasks promote the chance of loss. HOP is about experience and communication and seeks to understand the information gathered and insights shared by those closest to the work, the workers on the front line who recognize error-likely situations because they have experienced them.

The other dimension of HOP is likely familiar to most, and that is using a systems safety approach to identify and understand the errors and then eliminate or control them. A systems based approach to safety is the effort to use engineering and management tools to identify, analyze and control risks, not just hazards. Through this process, human factors are identified and addressed along with any organizational attributes that can threaten defenses and heighten risk.

Most important is the understanding that HOP is not a program; it’s an improvement process that gets better over time as trust grows in the organization. There are five basic principles that
are widely adopted by most HOP practitioners. These are:

  1. People make errors.
  2. Error-likely situations are predictable.
  3. All human actions are influenced by the context in which they occur.
  4. Operational upsets can be avoided.
  5. Our response to failure matters.

Considering these principles, changing our response when a loss occurs from a culture of blame to a culture of understanding is warranted. Deviation in the work system will happen, and at times, we will get something other than what we would expect. Finally, people work in the context of systems, and those systems need to defend against human error properly.

Better said, these principles promote an understanding that accepting data from various sources give operational intelligence that in turn can be used to build additional control. Employing HOP increases management and worker participation, helping organizations learn from experiences. And, by increasing knowledge of the risks that reside within the work system, the door opens for more effective levels of control. A combined and integrated approach supports the idea of a progressive partnership of management and workers working together to own safety and health in a way that reduces the potential of loss.

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