Organizational influences

Fallible decisions of upper-level management directly effect supervisory practices, as well as the conditions and actions of operators. These latent conditions generally involve issues related to Resource/Acquisition Management, Organizational Climate and Organizational Processes as shown in figure below.

Organizational Influences are factors in a mishap if the communications, actions, omissions or policies of upper-level management directly or indirectly affect supervisory practices, conditions or actions of the operator(s) and result in system failure, human error or an unsafe situation.

(i)Resource / Acquisition Management: This category refers to the management, allocation, and maintenance of organizational resources–human, monetary, and equipment/facilities. The term “human” refers to the management of operators, staff, and maintenance personnel. Issues that directly influence safety include selection (including background checks), training, and staffing/manning. “Monetary” issues refer to the management of non-human resources, primarily monetary resources.

For example, excessive cost cutting and lack of funding for proper equipment have adverse effects on operator performance and safety. Finally, “equipment/facilities” refers to issues related to equipment design, including the purchasing of unsuitable equipment, inadequate design of workspaces, and failures to correct known design flaws.

Management should ensure that human-factors engineering principles are known and utilized and that existing specifications for equipment and workspace design are identified and met. Resource / Acquisition Management is a factor in a mishap if resource management and/or acquisition processes or policies, directly or indirectly, influence system safety and results in poor error management or creates an unsafe situation.

(ii)Organizational Climate: Organizational Climate refers to a broad class of organizational variables that influence worker performance. It can be defined as the situational consistencies in the organization's treatment of individuals. In general, Organizational Climate is the prevailing atmosphere or environment within the organization.

Within the present classification system, climate is broken down into three categories--structure, policies, and culture.

The term “structure” refers to the formal component of the organization. The “form and shape” of an organization are reflected in the chain-of-command, delegation of authority and responsibility, communication channels, and formal accountability for actions. Organizations with maladaptive structures (i.e., those that do not optimally match to their operational environment or are unwilling to change) will be more prone to mishaps. “Policies” refer to a course or method of action that guides present and future decisions.

Policies may refer to hiring and firing, promotion, retention, raises, sick leave, drugs and alcohol, overtime, accident investigations, use of safety equipment, etc. When these policies are ill-defined, adversarial, or conflicting, safety may be reduced.

Finally, “culture” refers to the unspoken or unofficial rules, values, attitudes, beliefs, and customs of an organization ("The way things really get done around here."). Other issues related to culture include organizational justice, psychological contracts, organizational citizenship behaviour and union/management relations. All these issues affect attitudes about safety and the value of a safe working environment. Organizational Climate is a factor in a mishap if organizational variables including environment, structure, policies, and culture influence individual actions and results in human error or an unsafe situation.

(iii)Organizational Processes: This category refers to the formal process by which “things get done” in the organization. It is subdivided into three broad categories¬operations, procedures and oversight.

The term “operations” refers to the characteristics or conditions of work that have been established by management. These characteristics include operational tempo, time pressures, production quotas, incentive systems and schedules. When set up inappropriately, these working conditions can be detrimental to safety.

“Procedures” are the official or formal procedures as to how the job is to be done. Examples include performance standards, objectives, documentation and instructions about procedures. All of these, if inadequate, can negatively impact employee supervision, performance, and safety.

Finally, “oversight” refers to monitoring and checking of resources, climate and processes to ensure a safe and productive work environment. Issues here relate to organizational self-study, risk management and the establishment and use of safety programs.

Organizational Processes is a factor in a mishap if organizational processes such as operations, procedures, operational risk management and oversight negatively influence individual, supervisory and/or organizational performance and results in unrecognized hazards and/or uncontrolled risk and leads to human error or an unsafe situation.


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