Developing nin-techical skills for a Resilience Engineering approach to industrial safety

Department of Industrial and Management Systems Engineering Professor
Akinori Komatsubara


Standardizing work procedures and optimizing working conditions are crucial for preventing accidents arising from human error. This is the traditional so-called ergonomics approach. While this approach is highly effective on assembly lines, for tasks such as piloting an aircraft or involving medical services or air traffic control, the traditional ergonomics approach has limited applicability with regard to safety, since the tasks themselves and environments are not constant. In such cases, safety depends on flexible response on the part of the operator that accounts for the specific conditions of a given situation.
Additionally, some events, including natural disasters, may exceed prior assumptions. Risk management is clearly important, but minimizing damage requires flexible operator response based on the given situation. It also requires organizational structures and organizational cultures that allow such flexibility.
A new approach, which relies on the operator’s flexibility to maintain safety and prevent accidents, is called Resilience Engineering. To maintain safety under this approach, the operator must have specific feature related to flexibility. I have proposed a model for this, as shown in the figure.
Technical skills: These refer to the immediate knowledge and skills needed to perform a task.
Non-technical skills: These are skills such as situational awareness, communication skills, ability to manage workloads, etc. These abilities enable the smooth and appropriate completion of a task.
Positive attitude: This refers to an attitude that encourages engagement and encompasses traits such as courage and the ethical sense needed to encourage struggle amid changing circumstances.
Mental and physical health: Resilient activity requires good mental and physical health.
Non-technical skills—called CRM skills in the airline industry—are believed to play an extremely significant role in numerous contexts. The importance of CRM skills came to light following the Tenerife disaster involving two aircraft in 1977, and these skills have been subject to research ever since. CRM is now introduced as a standard component of aircrew training. Many other industries have recently expressed growing interest in non-technical skills after observing the limitations of traditional approaches, but few studies have sought to clarify the nature of the specific non-technical skills that correspond to certain task and work characteristics. My current research focuses on a method for extracting requirements for non-technical skills and the development of a training program for specific industries.
Work conditions are rapidly changing in numerous industries. Under such circumstances, safe, stable production ultimately depends on human factors. With the goal of achieving safety through Resilience Engineering, I plan to pursue research on developing various methods and techniques, including non-technical skills.