Re: [SystemSafety] NYTimes: The Next Accident Awaits

From: C. Michael Holloway < >
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2014 10:51:55 -0500


Greetings,

As a US citizen, my perception differs a bit.

The primary cultural reluctance is not against "the outside" or "Europe", but against change no matter the source. The proponents of a proposed change tend to bear the entire burden of proof to show that the change will definitely lead to significant improvements without substantial (or perhaps any) increased costs. The standard of proof is often quite high. This tendency is not always present, as some organizations will adopt the latest management fad without requiring any proof whatsoever. But that may be explained by another tendency.

Many people seem to give the strongest weight to the opinions of favorite "experts." No matter what evidence may exist to show that X is a good thing, if Prof. Y says that X is bad, then by golly, X is bad. And vise versa: Prof. Y saying X is good overcomes mountains of evidence to the contrary. (This tendency may be stronger than the anti-change tendency in some people and organizations; thus explaining the management fad crazes.)

A third tendency relates to "individual freedom and responsibility," as noted. For a substantial number of people, government regulation of any form is suspect. Such people often have a difficult time distinguishing between regulation that is necessary to protect the public and regulation that is irrelevant to public safety.

These three tendencies seem to me to explain much of the reluctance in the US to giving more serious consideration of adopting more explicitly goal-based approaches.

Michael Holloway
(speaking for myself alone, and not NASA, or any other US citizen)

P.S. As a couple of asides. ... First, I'd be inclined to rewrite the "at the level of the average person" as "global means China, international means Europe and the middle east, and worldwide means worldwide." Second, depending on the location of the particular street, one might easily find an overwhelming majority of people who view Europe as (1) a near utopia, which the US should hope to become; or (2) a near dystopia, which the US should deeply fear becoming.

On 1/30/14 9:29 AM, RICQUE Bertrand (SAGEM DEFENSE SECURITE) wrote:
> USA should then apply the conclusions of the Baker report to itself, at the level of the national culture. But this would probably be a change of paradigm.
>
> My opinion is that in USA, at the level of the average person in the street, global means federal, international means that one considers Canada, and worldwide means that one would add Mexico on the top.
>
> On another hand there are strong cultural reluctances to adopt concepts coming from outside, with probably some subconscious reluctances against Europe. The low-profile alignment on international standards (e.g. IS84 vs IEC 61511) is in my opinion symptomatic of such issues, although in this case there are also other points.
>
> This can easily be understood from a historical perspective, but it doesn't help beyond. Also the US industry has long benefited from the availability of empty space easing the installation of dangerous plants far from cities, thus decreasing the sensitivity to risk as the consequences of accidents on citizens remained often mitigated by the distance. The approach to individual freedom and responsibility collides also somewhat with the European approach where citizens are less keen to accept that the governments don't take protective measures, even at the cost of some freedom for the industrial companies.
>
> The USA have obviously the same level of competence as major European countries as far as safety is concerned. I have no doubt that if a change in paradigm occurred, these competencies would be immediately available and operational.
>
> All this should not hide the cynicism of worldwide companies, able to achieve excellent safety objectives when formally required (as in Europe), but "relaxing" the engineering standards very quickly according to the local regulatory environment ...
>
> Unfortunately, and maybe as a trivial European, I have a tendency to think that only enforcement can achieve safety goals against financial pressure.
>
> Bertrand Ricque
> Program Manager
> Optronics and Defence Division
> Sights Program
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>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From: systemsafety-bounces_at_xxxxxx > Sent: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 11:05 PM
> To: systemsafety_at_xxxxxx > Subject: [SystemSafety] NYTimes: The Next Accident Awaits
>
> A worthy opinion piece from the Chair of the US Chemical Safety Board. Note his suggestion that identifying hazards and mitigation is just well-established best practice. I can say from experience that it is not yet in Europe in all industries with safety aspects, even though he holds Europe up as having a factor of three fewer chemical accidents as the US.
>
> http://nyti.ms/1fa53oJ
>
> NYT abstract: Safety rules over hazardous chemicals must be tightened.
>
> PBL
>
> Prof. Peter Bernard Ladkin, University of Bielefeld and Causalis Limited _______________________________________________
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systemsafety_at_xxxxxx Received on Thu Jan 30 2014 - 16:52:16 CET

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