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Safety II – A uniquely Lucas definition

Through the Uniquely Lucas lens of Human Performance Improvement, Safety I and Safety II can be defined as protective vs. productive. One view of safety is risk-averse, precise systems of operation exist for the protection of the worker. The other understands why operations go right and institute guidelines creating additional capacity for success and innovation.

Safety I, established between 1965 and 1985 in high-risk industrial operations but has origins in the 1911 Scientific Management Theory by Frederick Taylor, defines success as the absence of adverse outcomes: near misses, incidents and accidents. Efforts of improvement often focus on the examination of the past through analysis efforts with an aim of introducing barriers, automation and redundancy to bring the frequency of adverse outcomes to zero. Safety-II, challenging the zero-sum outcome, looks at what an organization does right during the regular course of work and beyond to anticipate all possible working outcomes.

These principles are not mutually exclusive. Examining past failures to institute safety procedures and analyzing normal operations for continuous improvement is a part of creating a safety culture.

Lucas OPT emphasizes that fundamental principles exist for a true safety culture to exist.

  • Need to equip people to recognize error likely situations

  • Teach fundamentals of the challenges we all face

  • People need to recognize which error likely situation they’re in and act accordingly

  • People have the ability to, and often do, adapt to situations outside of the normal scope of work

  • Once we learn from the errors we’ve made, we need to apply the lessons learned

  • Not all jobs require the rigidity of Safety I and not all jobs can allow the capacity provided by Safety II

An example of Safety I: Lamb Weston a global food manufacturer, headquartered on the west coast, is known for its consistent (and delicious) French fry production. Lineworkers are expected to work in a specific way. Follow the work requirements for their safety, and the safety of the production line. When a deviation occurs, not only does the worker put themselves at risk around complex machinery, but they risk the quality and reputation of the final French fry products.

Conversely, Safety-II: When the fry machine on the line breaks, the mechanic brought in to work on the line is trusted to operate it properly. The fundamentals are still there regarding what steps come first in operating the equipment, but capacity is added to the role of the technician to solve the problem – fix the machine.

HPI principles still apply to both examples. Be sure to download our H.E.A.R.T. Analysis eBook for more information on several of these principles.

How much discretion does management want to give?

This is a question for each company, each division and each workgroup. We’ll close with another example, first provided by Gary Klein author of Sources of Power, to illustrate how companies can decide to answer this question.

A cook and a chef both understand the fundamentals of their job: knife safety, kitchen layout, fire safety and the skills needed for their spot on the line. A cook, understanding the principles of their trade, follows the recipe given to them. A Chef, understanding the principles of their trade, uses their additional capacity to innovate new recipes.

For more information on these concepts please reference Erik Hollnagel and his groundbreaking books on Safety I and Safety II. If you’re looking to implement a safety program for the current era of work or to implement a resilient operating system within your company, the team at Lucas is available for a consultation.


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