NET-HARMS: A new systems thinking-based risk assessment method

The NETworked Hazard Analysis and Risk Management System (NET-HARMS)

Although the systems thinking philosophy is widely accepted in accident analysis and investigation, it has not yet gained traction in the area of risk assessment. A recent review of over 300 risk assessment methods found that most focus predominantly on the risks associated with human error the sharp end of system operation (e.g. pilots, drivers, control room operators). Clare Dallat’s PhD research, supervised by Professor Paul Salmon and Dr Natassia Goode, involved the development of a systems thinking-based risk assessment method that could be used by practitioners to identify risks across overall work systems as well as risks at the sharp end.

An article describing the method, known as NET-HARMS (Networked-Hazard Analysis and Risk Management System), was published this week in the Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science journal. An additional key feature of NET-HARMS is that it supports the identification of emergent risks. These are the new and emergent risks that are created as a result of risks interacting with one another. This is a critical capability for risk assessment, as accident analyses consistently identify networks of multiple interacting risk factors.

In the article we describe an application of NET-HARMS in the led outdoor activity domain. This demonstrated its capacity to identify risks across the work system as well as emergent risks. Notably, the application identified 232 task risks, but also a further 1,363 emergent risks that arise when the initial task risks interact with one another. The key message is that existing risk assessment methods, whilst capable of identifying task risks, are likely missing numerous emergent risks, exactly the kind that interact to create adverse events. NET-HARMS provides the capability to identify both task and emergent risks and provides a simple and easy approach for doing so.

You can read the article here. For further information on NET-HARMS, or for access to other articles describing this program of research, please contact Clare DallatProfessor Paul Salmon, or Dr Natassia Goode.


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