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Does the oversight model lead to power relations in terms of empowerment or responsibilization?

Olsen, Torsten LU (2017) FLMU06 20152
Division of Risk Management and Societal Safety
Abstract
In public safety oversight authorities are traditionally assumed responsible of safeguarding operation and promoting safety by defining prescriptions and observing that they are complied with. Regulated entities on their side are assumed responsibility for complying.

While this compliance-based approach has contributed to current levels of safety, it is increasingly debated that it has limitations in yielding further safety achievements, that it represents a “one-size-fits-all” model regardless of diverse performance and needs in companies, and that its focus on standardization and proceduralization has negative side effects. Furthermore, the focus on means applied may seem off-target compared to focusing directly on safety outcomes... (More)
In public safety oversight authorities are traditionally assumed responsible of safeguarding operation and promoting safety by defining prescriptions and observing that they are complied with. Regulated entities on their side are assumed responsibility for complying.

While this compliance-based approach has contributed to current levels of safety, it is increasingly debated that it has limitations in yielding further safety achievements, that it represents a “one-size-fits-all” model regardless of diverse performance and needs in companies, and that its focus on standardization and proceduralization has negative side effects. Furthermore, the focus on means applied may seem off-target compared to focusing directly on safety outcomes achieved. Such arguments underlie contemporary developments into rational data-driven approaches introducing quantifiable safety goals, performance measurements, analysis of data and rational decision-making as basis for improvements. This approach aims at responsibilizing industry for safety outcomes, whereas authorities become responsible for monitoring and intervening whenever analysis of recorded outcome data deems so.

A third approach relying on on-site survey interaction focused on concrete observations as offset for dialogue on technical, operational and managerial issues concerning safe operation has been implemented by an Authority in a specific context of passenger ship safety oversight.

Taking offset in a maritime context this thesis examines these three approaches with a view to how they lead to distinct power relations in terms of responsibilization and empowerment. Major consequences for oversight effectiveness have also been touched.
It is argued that although compliance-based and data-driven approaches apply different means, they rest on similar basic presumptions of linearity, predictability and rational decision making. These ideal perspectives may hold in part, but are not capable of grasping complex dynamics inherent in almost any real life operation. A major consequence is responsibilization of either Authorities or regulated entities beyond their reach. Moreover, both approaches tend to create overfocus on formal acceptance criteria, while unintendedly omitting vigilance on other aspects, dynamics and complexities pertinent to safe operation. Such oversight entails “abandonment” of regulated entities rather than contributing to empowerment.
The third approach of on-site dialogue on safe operation seems well suited to yield qualitative insights for understanding local, contextual dynamics influencing promotion or erosion of safety. Due to such insights and exchange of knowledge, the method may serve to empower not only regulated entities, but also authorities.
Finally it is argued that all 3 approaches have merit, and that a merger of the methods carries potential for effective and empowering oversight contributing to companies’ efforts to operate safer. (Less)
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author
Olsen, Torsten LU
supervisor
organization
course
FLMU06 20152
year
type
H1 - Master's Degree (One Year)
subject
keywords
Safety oversight, regulatory oversight, Oversight model, power relations, empowerment, responsibilization, FLMU06
language
English
id
8927030
date added to LUP
2017-11-14 11:26:10
date last changed
2017-11-15 10:30:57
@misc{8927030,
  abstract     = {In public safety oversight authorities are traditionally assumed responsible of safeguarding operation and promoting safety by defining prescriptions and observing that they are complied with. Regulated entities on their side are assumed responsibility for complying. 

While this compliance-based approach has contributed to current levels of safety, it is increasingly debated that it has limitations in yielding further safety achievements, that it represents a “one-size-fits-all” model regardless of diverse performance and needs in companies, and that its focus on standardization and proceduralization has negative side effects. Furthermore, the focus on means applied may seem off-target compared to focusing directly on safety outcomes achieved. Such arguments underlie contemporary developments into rational data-driven approaches introducing quantifiable safety goals, performance measurements, analysis of data and rational decision-making as basis for improvements. This approach aims at responsibilizing industry for safety outcomes, whereas authorities become responsible for monitoring and intervening whenever analysis of recorded outcome data deems so.

A third approach relying on on-site survey interaction focused on concrete observations as offset for dialogue on technical, operational and managerial issues concerning safe operation has been implemented by an Authority in a specific context of passenger ship safety oversight. 

Taking offset in a maritime context this thesis examines these three approaches with a view to how they lead to distinct power relations in terms of responsibilization and empowerment. Major consequences for oversight effectiveness have also been touched. 
It is argued that although compliance-based and data-driven approaches apply different means, they rest on similar basic presumptions of linearity, predictability and rational decision making. These ideal perspectives may hold in part, but are not capable of grasping complex dynamics inherent in almost any real life operation. A major consequence is responsibilization of either Authorities or regulated entities beyond their reach. Moreover, both approaches tend to create overfocus on formal acceptance criteria, while unintendedly omitting vigilance on other aspects, dynamics and complexities pertinent to safe operation. Such oversight entails “abandonment” of regulated entities rather than contributing to empowerment.
The third approach of on-site dialogue on safe operation seems well suited to yield qualitative insights for understanding local, contextual dynamics influencing promotion or erosion of safety. Due to such insights and exchange of knowledge, the method may serve to empower not only regulated entities, but also authorities.
Finally it is argued that all 3 approaches have merit, and that a merger of the methods carries potential for effective and empowering oversight contributing to companies’ efforts to operate safer.},
  author       = {Olsen, Torsten},
  keyword      = {Safety oversight,regulatory oversight,Oversight model,power relations,empowerment,responsibilization,FLMU06},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {Does the oversight model lead to power relations in terms of empowerment or responsibilization?},
  year         = {2017},
}