Systems exist and function within diverse societal environments reflecting numerous societal constructs that have evolved over time in all societies. Societal constructs about justice, personal rights, behavioral norms, education, economics, governance, and others influence safety program and investigation perceptions, constructs and practices. Those societal constructs and their influences need to be incorporated by academics and practitioners into a new and broader “societal” socio-technical vision horizon for both safety programs and safety investigations if existing concerns, issues and conflicts are to be understood adequately and resolved.
For example, many societal desires are reflected in legal systems and their constructs. Legal systems exist in societies to provide an impartial and consistent process for binary resolution of issues involving deliberate or accidental harm or loss. Legal proceedings aim to satisfy several societal desires, including the determination of responsibility for causing harm, penalizing harmful behaviors, just compensation for harm or loss caused, deterring future harmful behaviors and bringing closure to victims’ concerns about incidents. Over many centuries, legal systems developed constructs needed to deal with all kinds of allegations involving acts or omissions that produced harm or loss covered by law. Legal proceedings also developed constructs for legal investigations to support parties’ arguments and legal decisions.
Safety domain programs and investigations evolved much more recently, to serve some similar societal concerns: the avoidance of harmful behaviors and harm, expressed as “prevention of recurrences”, and closure of concerns, expressed as desiring descriptions and explanations of what happened. As they evolved, safety programs and safety investigations used easily available legal investigation constructs to create a similar investigation process. Their use continued, even as safety investigation goals began to diverge from legal investigation goals. As far as I could determine, those constructs and the consequences of their use have not been investigated in detail.
To address this specific knowledge gap, such an investigation was undertaken. The goal of that work was to identify legal constructs incorporated into safety investigation processes, their effects on those processes and, if detrimental, potential changes to overcome any adverse effects. The work disclosed at least 7 related legal constructs with detrimental influences on safety investigations. The results suggest that further research into societal constructs’ influences on safety programs and safety investigations could be fruitful for identifying needed changes to both safety and societal constructs, as will be likely be required to resolve the criminalization of accident behavior issue.
A report of the inquiry can be accessed through the Resources page.