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Doctors are more dangerous than gun owners: A rejoinder to error counting

Dekker, Sidney LU (2007) In Human Factors 49(2). p.177-184
Abstract
Objective: This paper analyzes some of the problems with error counting as well as the difficulty of proposing viable alternatives. Background: Counting and tabulating negatives (e.g., errors) are currently popular ways to measure and help improve safety in a variety of domains. They uphold an illusion of rationality and control but may offer neither real insight nor productive routes for improving safety. Method: The paper conducts a critical analysis of assumptions underlying error counting in human factors. Results: Error counting is a form of structural analysis that focuses on (supposed) causes and consequences; it defines risk and safety instrumentally in terms of minimizing negatives and their measurable effects. In this way,... (More)
Objective: This paper analyzes some of the problems with error counting as well as the difficulty of proposing viable alternatives. Background: Counting and tabulating negatives (e.g., errors) are currently popular ways to measure and help improve safety in a variety of domains. They uphold an illusion of rationality and control but may offer neither real insight nor productive routes for improving safety. Method: The paper conducts a critical analysis of assumptions underlying error counting in human factors. Results: Error counting is a form of structural analysis that focuses on (supposed) causes and consequences; it defines risk and safety instrumentally in terms of minimizing negatives and their measurable effects. In this way, physicians can be proven to be 7500 times less safe than gun owners, as they are responsible for many more accidental deaths. Conclusion: The appeal of error counting may lie in a naive realism that can enchant researchers and practitioners alike. Supporting facts will continue to be found by those looking for errors through increasingly refined methods. Application: The paper outlines a different approach to understanding safety in complex systems that is more socially and politically oriented and that places emphasis on interpretation and social construction rather than on putatively objective structural features. (Less)
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author
organization
publishing date
type
Contribution to journal
publication status
published
subject
in
Human Factors
volume
49
issue
2
pages
177 - 184
publisher
HUMAN FACTORS SOC
external identifiers
  • wos:000244903900002
  • scopus:33947637909
ISSN
0018-7208
language
English
LU publication?
yes
id
9c1b53fb-ff8e-4830-bc2c-d7bb7654f24a (old id 670100)
alternative location
http://openurl.ingenta.com/content?genre=article&issn=0018-7208&volume=49&issue=2&spage=177&epage=184
date added to LUP
2007-12-07 10:49:57
date last changed
2017-10-29 04:25:50
@article{9c1b53fb-ff8e-4830-bc2c-d7bb7654f24a,
  abstract     = {Objective: This paper analyzes some of the problems with error counting as well as the difficulty of proposing viable alternatives. Background: Counting and tabulating negatives (e.g., errors) are currently popular ways to measure and help improve safety in a variety of domains. They uphold an illusion of rationality and control but may offer neither real insight nor productive routes for improving safety. Method: The paper conducts a critical analysis of assumptions underlying error counting in human factors. Results: Error counting is a form of structural analysis that focuses on (supposed) causes and consequences; it defines risk and safety instrumentally in terms of minimizing negatives and their measurable effects. In this way, physicians can be proven to be 7500 times less safe than gun owners, as they are responsible for many more accidental deaths. Conclusion: The appeal of error counting may lie in a naive realism that can enchant researchers and practitioners alike. Supporting facts will continue to be found by those looking for errors through increasingly refined methods. Application: The paper outlines a different approach to understanding safety in complex systems that is more socially and politically oriented and that places emphasis on interpretation and social construction rather than on putatively objective structural features.},
  author       = {Dekker, Sidney},
  issn         = {0018-7208},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {2},
  pages        = {177--184},
  publisher    = {HUMAN FACTORS SOC},
  series       = {Human Factors},
  title        = {Doctors are more dangerous than gun owners: A rejoinder to error counting},
  volume       = {49},
  year         = {2007},
}