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Journal Articles Safety Science Year : 2022

The ‘new view’ of human error. Origins, ambiguities, successes and critiques


Over the past two decades, the ‘new view’ has become a popular term in safety theory and practice. It has however also been criticised, provoking division and controversy. The aim of this article is to clarify the current situation. It describes the origins, ambiguities and successes of the ‘new view’ as well as the critiques formulated. The article begins by outlining the origins of this concept, in the 1980 s and 1990 s, from the cognitive (system) engineering (CSE) school initiated by Rasmussen, Hollnagel and Woods. This differed from Reason’s approach to human error in this period. The article explains how Dekker, in the early 2000 s, translates ideas from the CSE school to coin the term ‘new view’, while also developing, shortly after, an argument against Reason’s legacy that was more radical and critical than his predecessors’. Secondly, the article describes the ambiguities associated with the term ‘new view’ because of the different programs that have derived from CSE (Resilience Engineering – RE then Safety II, Safety Differently, Theory of Graceful Extensibility). The text identifies three programs by different thinkers (methodological, formal and critical) and Dekker’s three eclectic versions of the ‘new view’. Thirdly, the article discusses the successes of the CSE and RE school, showing how it has strongly resonated with many practitioners outside the academic world. Fourthly, the critiques raised within the field of human factors and system safety but also from different traditions (e.g., system safety engineering with Leveson, sociology of safety with Hopkins) are introduced, and discussed.
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ineris-03830792 , version 1 (15-11-2022)



Jean Christophe Le Coze. The ‘new view’ of human error. Origins, ambiguities, successes and critiques. Safety Science, 2022, 154, pp.105853. ⟨10.1016/j.ssci.2022.105853⟩. ⟨ineris-03830792⟩


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