Towards a New Way of Understanding the Resilience of Socio-Technical Systems

The Safety Fractal Analysis Method Evaluated

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Despite the systems approach to accident analysis being the dominant research paradigm and the concept of SMS being introduced in high-risk industries already for several years, accident investigation practice is still poor in analysing the basic elements that compose a safety management system (SMS) and in embracing system theory. In search of a systemic method for accident analysis that is easily applicable and less resource demanding than the actual methods, Accou and Reniers (2019) developed the SAfety FRactal ANalysis (SAFRAN) method. The method, which is based on the principles of an SMS with resilience as the explicit safety strategy, aims at finding a good balance between examining the complexity of a socio-technical system and making optimal use of limited resources and people; factors that often restrict the possibility for in-depth analysis of accidents. A series of practical tests, often involving active accident investigators, made it possible to examine and validate the SAFRAN method against the criteria Underwood (2013) developed to evaluate systemic accident analysis methods. Based on the performed evaluation, which includes elements related to the development of the method as well as system approach and usability characteristics, the study concludes that, when it comes to applying a systems approach to accident analysis and with the aim of creating more sustainable and resilient performance, the current investigation practice could gain from having the SAFRAN method as part of the investigation toolkit.