Safer Complex Industrial Environments

Erik Hollnagel

Ph.D., Professor, Professor Emeritus


Hollnagel, E. (Ed.) (2009). Safer Complex Industrial Environments. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press / Taylor & Francis.


While a quick response can save you in a time of crisis, avoiding a crisis remains the best defense. When dealing with complex industrial systems, it has become increasingly obvious that preparedness requires a sophisticated understanding of human factors as they relate to the functional characteristics of socio-technology systems. Edited by industrial safety expert Erik Hollnagel and featuring commentary from leaders in the field, Safer Complex Industrial Environments: A Human Factors Approach examines the latest research on the contemporary human factors approach and methods currently in practice.

Drawing on examples mainly from the nuclear industry, the book presents a contemporary view on human factors in complex industrial systems. The contributors contrast the traditional view of human factors as a liability with the contemporary view that recognizes human factor as also an asset without which the safe and efficient performance of complex industrial systems would be impossible. It describes how this view has developed in parallel to the increasing complexity and intractability of socio-technical systems and partly as a consequence of that. The book also demonstrates how this duality of the human factor can be reconciled by recognizing that the human and organizational functions that can be the cause of adverse events are also the very foundation for safety.

Building on this, the book introduces theories and methods that can be used to describe human and collective performance in a complex socio-technical environment. It explores how contemporary human factors can be used to go beyond failure analysis to actively make complex industrial environments safer.