Human factors: Organisational change
Why is organisational change an issue?
Many organisations face continuous pressure to change in order to meet their business objectives in a competitive market place. Industry is undergoing increasing change and there has been, and continues to be, pressure for organisational change and staff reductions.
Organisational changes such as reducing staffing levels, using contractors or outsourcing, combining departments, or changes to roles & responsibilities are usually not analysed and controlled as thoroughly as plant or process changes. Such changes can, if inadequately conceived or implemented, have a detrimental effect on safety. Even subtle changes to organisations can have significant impacts on the management of hazards.
Rapid or continuous change can also have a detrimental effect on health and poorly managed organisational change can increase the workforce’s experience of stress.
Key principles of managing organisational change
- The key issue is that the direct and indirect effects of a proposed change on the control of hazards should be identified and assessed.
- Due to the greater potential consequences of an accident, major accident hazard sites should aim for higher reliability in their planning and decision making.
- Avoid too many simultaneous changes which may result in inadequate attention to some or all. Phase changes whenever possible.
- Organisational change should be planned in a thorough, systematic, and realistic way; similar to the processes for managing plant change.
- Two aspects of the change need risk assessment: risks and opportunities resulting from the change (where you want to get to) and risks arising from the process of change (how you get there).
- Consult with staff (including contractors) before, during and after the change - don’t miss serious issues hidden among all the natural concerns.
- Ensure that all key tasks and responsibilities are identified and successfully transferred to the new organisation.
- Provide training and experienced support/supervision for staff with new or changed roles.
- Consider reviews of plans and assessments by independent internal or external experts - be prepared to challenge.
- Remember that change can happen even to apparently static organisations e.g. the effects of an ageing workforce.
More information on organisational change
- Extract from inspectors human factors toolkit - Organisational change and transition management
- Organisational change and major accident hazards
Published on the HSE website in July 2003 as an information sheet. Core guidance for COMAH sites.
- Assessing the safety of staffing arrangements for process operations in the chemical and allied industries
HSE Contract Research Report 348/2001, Essential guidance for assessing manning levels pre- and post-change. Note: New Energy Institute guide to the methodology ('Safe Staffing Levels') is available as a free download. Highly recommended for users of the method.
- Business re-engineering and health and safety management: best practice model
Contract Research Report 123/1996. Useful guidance for significant or major organisational change
- Department of Health
- Nuclear Directorate - Technical Assessment Guide: Licence Condition 36 Arrangements
This document provides guidance to Nuclear Inspectors on judging the adequacy of licensee’s arrangements to control any change to its organisational structure or resources which may affect safety.