Below you will find an infographic comparing Learning from Normal Work and Risk Assessment.

The list on the left shows a popular set of hazards,e.g. electricity, chemical, noise etc.

Hazards are typically defined as something with the potential to cause harm.

Compare that with the list of things on the right-hand side. These things are called constraints, error traps, or performance shaping factors, for example, incorrect procedure, insufficient time, or unfamiliar situations.

It’s difficult to call these constraints hazards and this is one of the reasons why typical risk assessment would not capture them and not control them.

The risk assessment may also focus on unsafe acts, but learning from normal work, would go beyond that and look at unsafe acts as a form of adaptation to local constraints created by other people in the organization.

When it comes to reducing the risk, we often think about the hierarchy of controls, but this approach may not be as effective when it comes to addressing constraints, such as an incorrect procedure or wrong tools provided. Therefore, we talk about optimizations as a form of improvement.

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