Visualising safety: The potential for using sociotechnical systems models in prospective safety assessment and design
Journal article, 2019

© 2018 There is growing emphasis within safety science and Human Factors/Ergonomics on the benefits of applying a sociotechnical systems perspective in order to influence design and thereby improve safety in everyday operations. This article examines how viewing work as a sociotechnical system – using visual models and representations – helps in understanding how work is performed and how it contributes to safe operations. A series of five models, developed using methods from Activity Theory, Cybernetics, Cognitive Systems Engineering and Resilience Engineering, are used to illustrate the work of maritime pilots and Vessel Traffic Services operators. Each model is examined using a modelling framework for prospective safety assessment, with the conclusion that it is how the models are applied, rather than their underlying methodologies, which determines their usefulness in this context. Different models highlight different aspects of work and facilitate discussion of safety, for example in a participatory design process, and we discuss criteria to guide their use and evaluation.

Sociotechnical systems

Safety assessment


Human factors/ergonomics

Systems ergonomics


Linda de Vries

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Design and Human Factors

Lars-Ola Bligård

Chalmers, Industrial and Materials Science, Design and Human Factors

Safety Science

0925-7535 (ISSN)

Vol. 111 80-93

Subject Categories

Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics

Other Engineering and Technologies not elsewhere specified

Information Science



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