A Renaissance in Safety & Health Prevention

What you should know about Human and Organizational Performance (HOP)

January 03, 2018

Most business leaders want to operate high-performance workplaces that ensure effective worker protection. The problem often is that they don’t know how to get there. And when they ask safety and health professionals for guidance, we often don’t know what to tell them to do.

To be effective, safety and health efforts must keep pace with constantly changing work environments and increasingly complex work processes. They must adapt to the growing use of contract and contingent workers and complications associated with using global supply chains.

We are in the midst of a renaissance in safety and health thinking that is providing a richer understanding of the human and organizational issues that affect performance. Known as HOP (human and organizational performance), the change is driven by the growing realization that fatalities, life-threatening events, and severe injuries and illnesses that are life-altering continue at unacceptable levels.

The Bigger Picture

Prevention efforts have historically been centered on the interaction between the hazard, the controls, and the employee who has been injured or made ill. Emphasis has been on compliance and on holding workers accountable for their actions. Corrective actions have traditionally focused on “fixing” the injured/ill employee who “messed up,” largely through retraining or discipline, or by applying more administrative controls, including updating the work procedures. Insufficient attention has been paid to the role the organization plays in contributing to such events.

Defining HOP

HOP is a risk-based operating philosophy that recognizes error is part of the human condition. Even the best employees make mistakes. And organizational systems and processes greatly influence employee actions and the likelihood of success (or failure). HOP focuses on enhancing organizational processes and systems to better understand and address risk. Leading companies use HOP to prevent injuries and illnesses, significantly improve employee engagement, work quality and system reliability, and achieve overall operational excellence.

HOP provides a richer understanding of how work actually gets done, considers the context in which employees must cope with hazards, and assesses an organization’s capacity to identify and respond to risk. Human factors are identified and addressed along with organizational attributes (e.g., cultural characteristics, management system gaps, process conditions, etc.) that can undermine defenses and elevate the risk. Corrective actions focus more on fixing the system than on fixing the employee.

HOP is critical to creating a learning organization that has the intellect, capacity, and courage to identify and rectify systems issues within the organization. Simply put, efforts to enhance serious injury prevention will not succeed without it.

ORC HSE, a membership-based organization that services over 110 large global corporations, has played a leading role in furthering efforts to better understand human and organizational performance (HOP). ORCHSE is hosting a conference on HOP on February 28 – March 1, 2018 in Houston, TX. The conference is open to the public and will feature well-known author Todd Conklin and experts such as Rob Fisher, Bob Edwards, and Tony Muschara, as well as companies that are implementing HOP concepts. Attendees will not only learn about the concepts and theories underpinning HOP, they will also learn practical implementation strategies and approaches.

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With a century-long legacy, the National Safety Council is a global center for safety expertise. Let's work together to align resources. We look forward to learning about ways we can join efforts to expand safety everywhere!

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