Health and Safety Is an Emergent System Property

Safety and health is a property of the system.  When we think about system properties it is helpful to think about our bodies.  Our bodies have many properties. We can see, think, walk, write, etc.  No individual part of our bodies can do these things.  Only our complete bodies can do them.  In the same way safety and health is a property of the workplace system.  Safety and health is not found in an individual part of the system, a person, device, procedure or training program.  Safety and health is the product of the interaction of parts of the system – the management system, people, work methods, hazard controls, procedures, supervision, tools, equipment and many other factors including culture, production pressure, resource constraints, goal conflicts, system strengths and deficiencies.  

“…safety is not found in a single person, device or department of an organization. Instead, safety is created and sometimes broken in systems, not individuals. The issue is finding systemic vulnerabilities, not flawed individuals.”
page 244-245 Behind Human Error (Woods and Dekker)

“……accidents are accordingly viewed as the result of flawed processes involving interactions among people, societal and organizational structures, engineering activities, and physical system components.”
Page 97, Resilience Engineering Concepts and Precepts Hollnagel, Woods, Leveson