Human Factors & System Safety

Faculty of Engineering, LTH

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Learning Laboratories in Human Factors and System Safety

(Frequently asked questions)

Our understanding of accidents, risk and safety is changing. We no longer see human error as cause, but as a symptom. We recognize the exciting possibilities of systems thinking for accident analysis and organizational improvement. We are shifting from reliability to resilience and the enhancement of adaptive capacity. We look for new relationships between stakeholders to create forms of accountability that do not harm safety.

Our Learning Laboratories are for professionals and practitioners who want to expand their knowledge and practical skills for the safety challenges of the twenty-first century. They offer you the latest thinking in the new view of human factors, accountability, accident models, and resilience engineering. 

Each Learning Laboratory is conducted during four or five intensive days at Lund University in Sweden. You and your co-participants develop new knowledge and skills through lectures, case material, exercises, group discussions and even extramural interactions. As active participant, you play a role in what you get out of each Learning Laboratory, where you will learn how to see and debate the various viewpoints on difficult topics in safety and human factors. You will be in the company of people with similar experiences and concerns, enriching your learning experience considerably.

The ethics of safety

June 12-16, 2017

at Lund University

In this learning laboratory we do not hesitate to ask the really tricky questions of how organizations do (or could, or perhaps even should) respond to adverse and often traumatic events. In a highly interactive manner learning lab participants from a great variety of domains get to delve into discussions and exchange of experiences regarding how to stimulate honest disclosure, what it means to treat someone justly, whether the recent emphasis on the need for organizational resilience is nothing but an innovative way to increase risk exposure and how we can care for the sharp-end staff who often are the most exposed for high-risk processes in our organisations. Two central concepts in this learning lab will be justice and second victimhood.

Organizational justice — You want people to tell you about safety and other problems they have in their work, about incidents that happen, certainly if there’s other way for you to find out. But for people to do that, they have to feel that their reports will be treated fairly, that there’s no negative or disproportionate consequences if they report. The dilemma, of course, is that there’ll be cases where you feel you have to demand accountability, even if it may dampen people’s willingness to share similar stories. This is where a just culture comes in: to balance accountability and learning. And to change the way we think about accountability so it becomes compatible with learning. Now you’re wrong if you think you can have a just culture by saying: we’ll treat your reporting fairly unless there’s gross negligence, willful violations, or other bad behavior. This still leaves people in uncertainty, because we don’t have clear definitions for any of these categories. Whether something is seen as negligence—which, by the way, is a legal term, not a human factors one—depends on standards of good practice, definitions of skill, prudence, reasonable care, foreseeability of harm. And somebody needs to interpret all that. These are all judgment calls that somebody will have to make. So the real question is: who makes that judgment? Whom do you give the power to make that judgment, to draw the line?

Second victim— What if you are doing your job and you injure or kill someone? Chances are, you will become the second victim of your incident or accident. In some sense, the second victim is like surviving first victims: there can be trauma, shock, loss, anger, possibly injury. But then there is guilt. The guilt that comes from violating duty, violating trust, violating responsibility, and for causing the thing that should have been prevented. And there is blame - self-blame and blame by others. This can turn into lawsuits, and increasingly into criminal prosecution. Together, these after-effects form a potent destructive package, which many individuals and organizations are ill-equipped to handle. Some second victims decide life is no longer worth living, and commit suicide. What are the psychological and emotional experiences of the second victim? What can an organization do to help? What are the links between the resilience of the organization’s resilience (in how it acknowledges vulnerabilities and errors, and tries to learn from them) and that of the second victim?

Please apply to the learning lab using this application form.

Critical Thinking in Safety - an introduction to the field

January 22-26, 2018

at Lund University

This Learning Laboratory will help you form a new view of human factors and systems safety. During the lab, you will be exposed to perspectives, which will assist you to develop a critical view when thinking about human factors and system safety. This lab will take you beyond classical “Newtonian thinking”, grounded in a basic  cause and effect philosophy.  It will challenge common assumptions, regarding accountability, failed human components and linear progressions to accidents, and it will help you to distinguish safety from quality. You will learn how to recognize and describe phenomena such as cognitive fixation, plan continuation, automation surprises, normalization of deviance, procedural drift and system resilience and understand their importance.  We will address concepts regarding how to move a safety program forward in a complex work environment and how to write useful recommendations for this progress.  Perspectives and language can actually result in destructive biases – we will challenge the current use of words and the influence they create. The lab will take you beyond the label "human error," and help you to discover the mindsets, understanding, expectations and knowledge that affect people's work at the sharp end of safety-critical environments such as airlines, firefighting, hospitals, process control, emergency responders, shipping and air traffic control.

Learning Laboratory cost and entry requirements

There are no specific entry requirements for a Learning Laboratory, except a genuine interest in the topic under consideration and the ability to contribute with questions and examples from your own experience or industry.

Participation costs 15 000,- SEK (plus VAT where applicable) for each Learning Laboratory. This does not include cost for the books that we may recommend you to read, nor the cost of travel or accommodation.

Swedish law does not allow students to pay for their own education, so we will need information from your employer or other applicable sponsor for your participation in the Learning Laboratory.

You will be awarded a Testimonium upon completion.

If you want to participate, you can find the application form at the top of this page. For more information you can reach us at: