Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the ISSS - 2009, Brisbane, Australia, Proceedings of the 53rd Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences

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Susanne Tepe, John Barton


In many countries, particularly Australia, there has been a steady decline in the number of workplace injuries, but the number never seems to reduce below a certain level, approximately 10 compensable injuries per 1000 employees.
A mantra of systems dynamics states that the structure of a system is ascertained by understanding the pattern of observable events that result from that system. However, one’s understanding of the pattern of events is influenced by the world view that underpins one’s view of the pattern. Pepper’s four world views or hypotheses offer a framework for discerning a system’s patterns: If one views the world through a Formism lens, one sees categories of similar and different events. A Mechanistic world view causes one to see controllable machines with inputs, outputs, processes and feedback. An Organicism world view sees the world as an organism evolving in response to the environment while a Contextual world view sees operators in the world who influence the environment and are influenced by it in a continuous cycle.
The events of significance to occupational health and safety (OHS) are workplace injuries. The pattern of events is used to determine the causes of injuries and to elucidate the structure of the system that caused the injury. The causes of the injuries determine how you structure your control systems to prevent further injuries, how you establish your management system, even what risk equation is needed to calculate the risk associated with the injury events. Yet how, or whether, you recognise the pattern is determined by your world view.
This paper describes how the various world views influence the practice of OHS and suggest a framework for a pluralist approach to the control, management, research of, and learning about OHS issues.

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