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Putting the ‘System’ into Safe System Frameworks.
Over the past two decades, the ‘systems’ approach to safety has been applied, with significant safety gains, in most complex safety critical domains (eg Rasmussen and Reason [1,2]). Under this philosophy, safety is treated as an emergent property of the overall system, as opposed to solely the responsibility of human operators at the ‘sharp end’ of system operation. As evidenced by recent road safety strategies, such as the Australian National Road Safety Strategy 2001-2010 , this approach is now gaining credence in the road transport domain [4, 5].
The Australian National Road Safety Strategy 2011-2020, currently in development, is to be underpinned by a similar philosophy incorporating a shared responsibility for safety, an appreciation of the limits of human performance and tolerance, and a forgiving road transport system. The implementation and effectiveness of such an approach is contingent upon various key elements, one of which being the acquisition of appropriate evidence to support systems-based strategy development. This article provides a short commentary on some of the mechanisms required for supporting the systems approach philosophy in a road safety context.