The neuroscience behind perception and risk management in complex sociotechnical workplaces
Authors: Josue Franca, Erik Hollnagel
Abstract: From the first Neanderthals and Sapiens civilizations to the current world powers, human evolution was driven by its own will to develop, grow, discover, innovate and consolidate. Walking through the history of Humanity is witnessing an entire social, cultural and political evolution, understanding how the Society can shape the individual, and how the individual constitutes the Society. At the centre of this evolution is the brain, as the architect, engineer and executor of all this evolution. The cortical macrostructures of this organ – reptilian, limbic and neocortex systems are responsible for the instinct of preservation and reproduction of the species, but they also imagine and conceive solutions for the most varied daily demands, from simple problems to critical complexities. Its internal structures, such as amygdala, frontal lobes and corpus callosum, in addition to processing all the inputs of the senses – smell, hearing, touch, etc – form neurochemical social bonds, which guarantees preservation, but also manage an almost infinite range of emotions and interactions. The perception, the result of this whole process, in addition to forming a mental projection of the environment, recognizes opportunities and risks, generating an individual and social memory regarding the dangers of everyday life. When this perception is faced with the First Industrial Revolution, the safety at work will be associated with industrial equipment, organizational culture, workplaces, as well as the natural and evolved perception of risk of each individual – a software present in the hardware of the brain’s structures since the first civilizations. Following this evolution, work systems also evolved from simple linear production lines to complex sociotechnical workplaces, involving people, equipment, processes and organizational culture. The methodologies and tools designed to understand these risks, however, do not evolve at the same speed, persisting a misconception that current workplaces can be analysed, in relation to risk, like a linear production line. In this aspect, integrating the concepts of neurosciences, sociology, engineering and ergonomics, but not limited to these, the Human Factors approach, which is integrative and multidisciplinary, brings a systemic understanding of work environments, understanding and demonstrating the real complexity present.
Keywords: Human Factors, System Safety, Neuroscience, Risk Management
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