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Building adaptive capacity through everyday work

Summary of the technical presentation presented at:

2018 International Severe Accident Management Conference
October 15–18, 2018

Prepared by:
Tanya Hewitt
Human Factors Specialist
Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission


Planning for severe accidents often challenges our expectations, as severe accidents by definition are not normal occurrences. However, the ability to successfully mitigate severe accidents can be supported by building adaptive capacity, which can be realized through everyday work. This talk presents how concepts in "Safety Differently" research can help organizations become more resilient, and be in a better position to handle severe accidents. It also presents case studies of severe accidents averted as a result of the capabilities of front-line actors who, in different circumstances, might have been admonished for deviant behaviour. This talk presents some theory, such as outcome-determined judgement as a retrospective social construct as opposed to a dynamic understanding of the work environment (the local rationality principle). It also presents some concepts, such as work as imagined versus work as done (or black line versus blue line), recognizing expertise and informal leadership, procedural adherence in context, simulation exercises that can target the knowledge and skills sought, and learning teams. The talk also presents experiences from the literature and podcasts on ways to incorporate these ideas into both everyday work and preparation for the unexpected.

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