Safety and organisational change

A health and safety briefing provided by the IET.

It is widely recognised that engineered changes, if not properly considered and controlled, can have potentially major safety implications. This is particularly true in the major hazard industries, where considerable efforts are made to establish and maintain safety cases for plant. It can also be a major issue for other apparently less hazardous operations where full safety cases do not need to be developed.

The requirement for risk assessments are aimed at addressing these issues. For example, changes to an electrical circuit, if not properly assessed, documented and taken into account through a risk assessment prior to new work being carried out, can lead to consequences which in some cases could be fatal.

See briefing HSB05a Risk assessment – legal position and interpretation  

What is not so widely recognised is that organisational changes can also have a major impact on safety and in some cases can have consequences as serious as failures in engineering control. Some major industries such as the petrochemical, nuclear and railway industries in the UK, have introduced systems to ensure that people related changes do not inadvertently have an impact on safety but it is an issue that all of us now need to consider.