Accident causation and system safety

This is a highly multidisciplinary theme, with focus areas across different contexts and industries (to date, I have examined safety issues in the mining industry, the nuclear, chemical, and airline industries). This work is also particularly relevant for and synergetic with research in Injury Prevention and Safety in the Healthcare System, areas I am keen to explore next.

For what purpose? To sustain safety, reduce the burden of injury, and make the world a safer place through better design, operation, and education

I am a strong advocate of supporting and engaging in cross-talk between the different communities of system (and product) safety professionals, injury epidemiologists, and advocates of safety in the healthcare system—and other stakeholders. There are many synergies between their respective areas of interests, and the tools and frameworks in one area may be helpful in another. An interdisciplinary dialog between these different safety communities can enrich the perspectives of everyone involved, and ultimately it will further advance the common safety agenda and our shared end-objective, which is to help build a safer society, whether in the workplace, during commute, at home, or while handling any engineering product.

My research in this area includes a fundamental research component, an applied industry-specific component, and an education and outreach component.

Topic
System safety principles
Accident precursors
Safety in the process industry
Coordinability in accident causation and prevention: formal system-theoretic concept
Review: Highlights from the literature on accident causation and system safety
Software contributions to aircraft adverse events
From learning from accidents to teaching about accident causation and prevention: multidisciplinary education and safety literacy
Safety in the mining industry and the unfinished legacy of mining accidents
Observability in Depth: novel safety strategy to complement defense-in-depth
On primitives of causality: from the semantics of agonist and antagonist to models of accident causation and system safety


The objectives of the first component are to contribute to the thinking about and the language of accident causation and prevention, and to expand the analytical basis and intellectual toolkit of safety professionals and risk analysts. The objective of the second applied component is to contribute specific insights, safety principles, and regulatory recommendations to particular industries. The focus to date has been on the mining industry, the chemical industry, the nuclear industry, and the aerospace industry (with an emphasis on software contributions to aircraft adverse events).

Safety competency should be an essential part of the intellectual toolkit of all engineering students. It is often said that the best technology transfer mode comes “wearing shoes”; by educating and engaging engineering students in the multidisciplinary issues of accident causation and system safety, educators can help infuse their students, the future contributors, managers, and leaders of technology-intensive or hazardous industries, with a proper safety competence and awareness before they enter the workforce, and in so doing, they will contribute, in the long-term, one step towards accident prevention and better safety culture in the workforce.

The three aspects of this research area, Accident causation and system safety, offer very fruitful research directions and are significantly rich in possibilities for making meaningful contributions.

I continue to advocate for (i) more support for fundamental research in accident causation and system safety; (ii) incentives for multidisciplinary collaborations through the creation academic hubs or centers of excellence dedicated to this subject; and (iii) partnerships between academia, industry, and government, especially accident investigation agencies to address these issues.

Specific focus areas: the titles below provide a first guide into this body of work

1. Favaro, F. M., Saleh, J. H.

Application of temporal logic for safety supervisory control and model-based hazard monitoring
Reliability Engineering and System Safety, Vol. 169, 2018, pp. 166–178

3. Favaro, F. M., Saleh, J.H.

“Toward risk assessment 2.0: Safety supervisory control
and model-based hazard monitoring for risk-informed safety interventions”
Reliability Engineering and System Safety, Vol. 152, 2016, pp. 316–330

5. Foreman, V. L., Favaro, F. M., Saleh, J.H., Johnson, C.W.

Software in military aviation and drone mishaps: analysis and recommendations for the investigation process
Reliability Engineering and System Safety, Vol. 137, 2015, pp. 101–111

6. Cowlagi, R. V., Saleh, J. H.

Coordinability and consistency: application of systems theory to accident causation and prevention
Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industry, Vol. 33, 2015, pp. 200–212

7. Favarò, F. M., Saleh, J. H. (2013)

"Observability-in-Depth: an Essential Complement to the Defense-in-Depth Safety Strategy in the Nuclear Industry
Nuclear Engineering and Technology, Vol. 46, No. 6, 2014, pp. 803–816

8. Saleh, J.H., Marais, K.B., Favaro, F. M.

System safety principles: a multidisciplinary engineering perspective

Journal of Loss Prevention in the Process Industry. Vol. 29, 2014, pp. 283–294

9. Saleh, J.H. Saltmarsh, E. Favaro, F. M., Brevault, L.

Accident precursors, near misses, and warning signs: critical review and formal definitions within the framework of Discrete Event Systems

Reliability Engineering and System Safety, vol. 114, 2013, pp. 148–154

10. Saleh, J.H., Haga, R. A., Favaro, F. M., Bakolas, E.

Texas City Refinery Accident: Case Study in Breakdown of Defense-In-Depth and Violation of the Safety-Diagnosability Principle

Engineering Failure Analysis, vol. 36, 2014, pp. 121–133

12. Saleh, J. H., Marais, K. B., Bakolas, E., Cowlagi, R. V.

Highlights from the literature on accident causation and system safety: Review of major ideas, recent contributions, and challenges

Reliability Engineering and System Safety, vol. 95, Issue 11, 2010, pp. 1105–1116

13. Favaro, F. M., Jackson, D. W., Saleh, J. H. Mavris, D. M.

Software contributions to aircraft adverse events: case studies and analyses of recurrent accident patterns and failure mechanisms

Reliability Engineering and System Safety, vol. 113, 2013, pp. 131–142

14. Saleh, J. H., Pendley C.

From learning from accidents to teaching about accident causation and prevention: multidisciplinary education for engineering students

Reliability Engineering and System Safety, vol. 99, Issue 1, 2012, pp. 105–113

16. Marais, K., Saleh, J. H., Leveson, N. G.

“Archetypes for Organizational Safety”

Safety Science, vol. 44, Issue 7, 2006, pp. 565–582

17. Brevault, L., Favarò, F. M., Saleh, J. H. (2013)

“On primitives of causality: from the semantics of agonist and antagonist to models of accident causation and system safety”

ESREL 2013, Amsterdam, Sept. 29 – Oct. 2, 2013