Reviews
Edited by Timothy D. Ludwig, Routledge, £115 hardback *

Sources of Behavioral Variance in Process Safety – analysis and intervention

Flixborough, Bhopal, Seveso, Chernobyl, Texas City, Deepwater Horizon, LaPorte: process safety accidents always hit the headlines and stay lodged in our memories for years. Deep-dive investigations seek to identify failings and preventive measures are ramped up. When the stakes are high and human lives are in the balance, we often turn to engineering controls to “keep the stuff in the pipe”. 

book-review-sources_of_behavioral_variance_in_process_safety

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The growing field of process safety management is dominated by engineering practices such as equipment design, operating procedures and preventive maintenance. Yet these systems remain dependent on human management. 

As soon as people are added to the mix, controls succumb to variance. It’s natural, then, that engineers and safety practitioners turn to behavioural science to help them design better systems. 

That is the focus of this book. It strives to identify the behavioural root causes that lead to variation and threaten process safety. Timothy Ludwig, professor of industrial psychology and human resources management at Appalachian State University in the US, does a solid job of translating behavioural analysis into practical approaches that might reduce both the potential for, and the severity of, process safety failures. Although human behaviour presents the greatest source of variance, it may also present the biggest opportunity for improvement and success.

But process safety is qualitatively different from conventional approaches to influencing behaviour. Protective behaviour is passive, such as observing gauges and conducting inspections and intervention success depends on the interplay of many factors.

Ludwig pulls together 12 published articles in the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management. Despite the language at times straying into the verbose, academic vein, it is a sensible and well thought-out flow that takes the reader from understanding the contingencies in process safety to guidance on improving it through humanistic approaches. There is a lot in these pages, including sterling analyses of behavioural decision making and risk discounting, complacency and human error, leadership impact, human factors, and a fascinating look at language, communication and person states. There is even a worthwhile attempt to revise Heinrich’s pyramid to account for accident precursors. 

At £115 for fewer than 200 pages it may be overpriced. But if you’re looking for a collection of well-considered, science-based, erudite research to inform your own approach to process safety, with an emphasis on human behaviour, it could be a useful investment to shape your interventions.

Routledge | www.routledge.com

* All prices correct at the time of review 

 

andrew-sharman-cut-out

CEO of international safety culture consultancy RMS 

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