WSJ reports on the science of studying near misses and human factors that contribute to system failures.
Near Misses Are a Hit in Disaster Science
By CARL BIALIK
While there never has been an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico quite as large as the current disaster, there have been other terrible mishaps and, as in every industry, near misses.
These close calls are what Scott Shappell, professor of industrial engineering at Clemson University, looks for when he works with airlines on quantifying their risk from human errors.
"All you hear about are crashes, but it's the near misses that are telling," Prof. Shappell says. "If you only knew how many near misses there are in aviation, you would never fly again."
Near misses can be studied by statisticians to estimate the probability of an event that hasn't occurred before. Estimating the probability of unlikely disasters has become standard practice for nuclear and space regulators. Such an exercise, experts say, could help companies involved in deep-sea drilling evaluate risks and possibly prevent catastrophes like the Gulf oil spill.
Human Factors science is a common practice in Nuclear Power Plants, Aviation and complex programs like the Space Shuttle.
The following can just as be easy be stated about the data center industry.
There also is some danger in producing risk assessments that are too precise. "Most laypeople want a single number," says Todd Paulos, chief technology officer for Alejo Engineering Inc. in Huntington Beach, Calif., but "we can't predict anything to that accuracy."
The wild card in all these estimates is human error. Nuclear-power companies for years have sought to calculate and reduce risk by evaluating how people respond to simulations of potentially dangerous situations.
One of these days we'll see a data center consulting company offer Human Factors analysis. Here is the company that has a bunch of Human Factors people who specialize in the.
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