Some recent reflections and thoughts

Dear readers, I am currently in thesis-writing-mode. That is the main reason why I have not picked up some of the latest interesting topics out there in a blog-reflection. The writing effort goes in to the thesis in order to get it done before the summer. However some short reflections can be made.

First of all: What a fantastic class of master students we have taken in to the master program in Human Factors and Systems Safety! Amanda, Sue, Kristine, Stephen, David, Michel, Juha-Pekka, Ralf, Hadi: You guys rock! The amount of experience in that group is just amazing and I am really privileged getting to spend the coming two years in close interaction with all of you. The learning laboratory last week was full of interesting discussions, deep dives into the theoretical pool of human factors and systems safety, stories from nuclear plants, hospitals, subways, mines and icy airplane wings, and nice social evenings in Lund. Being able to continue to run the master program is nothing but a great success for all of us!

The reporting surrounding Costa Concordia also deserves mentioning. Once again the analytical trap of the individual recklessness as the single cause of an accident, in an otherwise safe system, has been closed. There are so many other interesting stories silenced. My point would be that accidents always have history and context that needs to be outlined and understood for any account of causality to render learning opportunities for future improvements of the system. When the story of Costa Concordia is reduced to an account of the reckless self-contained (independent of history and context) captain who lacks basic seamanship so many other accounts of history and context get silenced.

During last week's learning laboratory we had several representatives from the maritime industry and for them the issue of close fly-byes of island is nothing new. Note that the mayor of this particular island (Giglio) wrote a mail to the captain making a previous fly-by (not Francesco Schettino) in August, thanking him for an "unequalled spectacle" that has become an "indispensable tradition". Check out this youtube-video of the "unequalled spectacle".

So again, I would argue against any causal explanation not describing an accident in terms of history and context. This case indeed has history: history of the economical pressures of running cruise-operation during the European winter in a competitive environment, the history of salutation-procedures, etc. The context surrounding the crew is ultimately shaped by history. "He obviously lacked basic seamanship" is, to me, simply not a satisfying description of context.

...back to thesis-writing...


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