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2014 Webinar Profile

The Human Factor: A Problem to Control or a Resource to Harness?
Presented by Sidney Dekker, Griffith University
Tuesday, September 2

Human factors was once founded on the idea that we build systems that are adapted to the specifics of human performance rather than fitting people to the fixed features of systems. In many industries, however, safety interventions still (or increasingly) target the behavior of individual operators so that they comply with what others think is the best method to work. Meanwhile, system design issues may be left unaddressed.

In this webinar, Sidney Dekker will review some of the history of human factors and safety thinking: from early-20th-century behaviorism to late-1980s ideas about precursors. Throughout, he asks the question: Do we see people essentially as a problem to control, or as a resource to harness? If we choose the latter, we would see safety not as the absence of errors, violations, incidents, or other negative events, but as the presence of our people's positive capacities, capabilities, and competencies to make things go right—despite the rules, the organization, technological glitches, resource constraints, and multiple goal conflicts. This might take us back to human factors' original impetus: Target the context surrounding people's work rather than telling everybody else to try a little harder.

The webinar is suitable for all experience levels.

Sidney Dekker received his PhD in cognitive systems engineering at The Ohio State University in 1996 and is a professor at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, where he runs the Safety Science Innovation Lab. He is also an honorary professor of psychology at The University of Queensland and an honorary professor of human factors and patient safety at Royal Children's Hospital in Brisbane. Previously, he was a professor of human factors and system safety at Lund University in Sweden.

After becoming a full professor, Dekker learned to fly the Boeing 737, working part-time as an airline pilot out of Copenhagen. He has won worldwide acclaim for his groundbreaking work in human factors and safety and is best-selling author of, most recently, Second Victim (2013), Just Culture (2012), Drift into Failure (2011), and Patient Safety (2011). His latest book is Safety Differently (2014). For more information about Sidney, visit

If you are an HFES member, all webinar recordings and handouts will be available at within 5 business days of the presentation. If you are not an HFES member and you register for a webinar, you will be e-mailed a copy of the webinar recording and handouts also within 5 business days.