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Operationalizing normal accident theory for safety-related computer systems.

Authors
Sammarco-JJ
Source
Saf Sci 2005 Nov; 43(9):697-714
NIOSHTIC No.
20028811
Abstract
Computer-related accidents have caused injuries and fatalities in mining, as well as other industries. Normal accident theory (NAT) explains that some accidents are inevitable because of system complexity. NAT is a classic argument in organizational sociology, although it has been criticized as having imprecise definitions and lacking criteria for quantifying complexity. These limitations are addressed by a unique approach that recasts this organizational theory into an engineering-based methodology to quantify NAT complexities of computer-based systems. In this approach, complexity is categorized as external or internal. External complexity is defined by the external behavior of a system and is quantified by the following dependent variables: system predictability, observability, and usability. Dependent variable data contain the perceptions of 32 subjects running simulations of a system. The system's internal complexity is characterized by modeling system-level requirements with the software cost reduction (SCR) formal method. Model attributes are quantified using 15 graph-theoretical metrics--the independent variables. Five of 15 metrics are correlated with the dependent variables, as evidenced by structure correlations exceeding 0.25, with standard errors <0.10 and a 95% confidence interval. The results also show that the system predictability, observability, and usability decreased as NAT complexities increased. This research takes a step forward in operationalizing NAT for computerized systems. The research benefits mining, as well as other industries.
Keywords
Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Safety-research; Mining-industry; System-safety
Contact
NIOSH Pittsburgh Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 18070, Pittsburgh, PA 15236
CODEN
SSCIEO
Publication Date
20051101
Document Type
Journal Article
Email Address
JSammarco@cdc.gov
Fiscal Year
2006
NTIS Accession No.
NTIS Price
Issue of Publication
9
ISSN
0925-7535
NIOSH Division
PRL
Source Name
Safety Science
State
PA
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