Managerial and non-technical factors in the development of human-created disasters: A review and research agenda
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A number of common underlying factors in the development of human-created disasters, as cited in numerous official inquiry reports, encompass in particular, safety management system defects and weaknesses in an organization's safety culture. Human factors such as faulty risk cognition, bounded rationality, groupthink, failure of foresight and organizational learning, suspect motivations, reactive attitudes, and inappropriate risk decision-making, are commonly associated characteristics of such shortcomings. This article summarizes and discusses underlying managerial and non-technical factors in human-created major hazard accidents in the light of theories of accident causation, findings from disaster inquiries and published research, and the systemic holism-versus-reductionism debate. Ideally, all site operators would know and understand disaster aetiology and preventive requirements and be motivated to enact them. However, there is sufficient empirical evidence from inquiry reports into major hazard incidents and disasters that idealized enactment rarely occurs and in many cases safety policy and strategy as enacted is distant from espoused safety policy and strategy. Research questions relating to board level thinking and actions on major hazard risks are posited and a proposal for a more holistic and potentially more effective major hazard safety research framework is put forward.