The Safety Debate: From Safety-I To Safety-II


“Safety-II” or “Safety Differently” have made headlines in recent years as an evolutionary complement of the conventional safety thinking, referred to as ‘Safety I’. The new safety concept comes to dislodge the interest from ’what goes wrong’ to ‘what goes right’, reminding that safety management should not only be reactive, but proactive as well.

However, recent research approaches Safety-II, or the “New-View” as it is framed, as a collection of untested propositions, questioning whether these are valid or not, reports Safety4sea.

What exactly is the New-View?

Officially seen as “Resilience Engineering (RE)”, this New-View concept has emerged in recent years aiming to redefine the way in which health and safety practitioners see safety, the role of people in safety; and how businesses specifically focus on safety.

As a leader in the Safety-II concept, Professor Erik Hollnagel says the term is concerned with ensuring how and why things go right, rather than how and why they go wrong, as is the case with the Safety-I concept. Meanwhile, the closely related term of “Safety Differently” rejects the notion of “human error” as incident causation, viewing them as symptoms of system problems affecting Human Factors, according to Professor Sidney Dekker who has led research on the topic.

While the conventional approach focuses on prevention of harm through standards and rules, Safety-II focuses on promoting long-lasting resilience by promoting the human ability to work safely without adhering to the rule book.

For example, an accident investigation under the scope of Safety-I is to identify the causes of adverse outcomes, while risk assessment aims to determine their likelihood. On the contrary, accident investigations under Safety-II seek to understand how things usually go right, as this forms the basis for explaining how things go wrong.

Safety I

Safety II

Learn from our errors

Learn from our successes

Safety defined by absence

Safety defined by presence

Reactive approach

Proactive approach

Understand what goes wrong

Understand what goes right

Accident causation

Repeat what goes right

Avoid errors

Enforce successful behaviors

Reduce losses

Create new process on successful behaviour


For shipping, an industry particularly vulnerable to safety and heavily reliant on rules and regulations, progressing from traditional safety approaches can be challenging, if not risky. Human error is estimated to account for around 80% of maritime accidents, but this cause is pretty vague and “barely scratches the surface of an incident investigation, Alvin Forster from the North P&I Club has told SAFETY4SEA, arguing that, if someone did something wrong, then it is vital to understand why they did it.

Read more here.

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Source: Safety4sea


  1. On Aug 11th one seafarer lost his life at sea, due to a common human error, that had been occurring repeatedly, ever since we are using chemicals in ships.

    An exhausted engineer came up to workshop, took the nearby kept mineral water bottle and drank to quench his thirst. Unfortunately, the bottle had a mixture of clear looking strong cleaning chemical, Air Cooler Cleaner and water. Though immediate medical support was given as per MSDS and further from the assistance of Radio Medical, he lost his life.

    The response from many sea farers groups revealed, in spite of safety precautions and circulars, this accident has been occurring in Engine room, but not so fatal always.

    One of the preventive measure that we could consider is, make it mandatory:
    “ALL MARINE CHEMICALS MUST BE STAINED WITH COLOR”, so that it will never be mistaken for mineral water. Let us learn from past fatalities and prevent another loss of life.