Video cameras won´t help prevent accidents in Argentina´s railway system

I hesitated a lot to write this note, but I just feel that if I don´t do it, I won´t contribute from my perspective to accident prevention, whether they concern train, plane or other means of transportation.
In Argentina, a phenomenon occurs very similar to the rest of the world: there are many specialists in understanding the human causes of accidents who can intervene directly in transport organizations to improve systems and prevent future accidents. These ones only appear when a judge comes up with the unusual idea to consult the guide university researchers, very occasionally, and only in the stage - less productive in terms of prevention - which is investigating the crash, which occurrs after the deaths of innocent passengers and bystanders. Therefore, there are a few specialists who are not consulted "before" but only after the accident, which puts us in a very unproductive situation in terms of prevention. The worse is that in general we are not requested. I work in the UTN, I run a specialization in Ergonomics and it´s well known I am specialized in industrial risk management, and yet I don´t recieve any consultation, neither do my colleagues from other universities, despite sending letters, offering our services and help, even in my case, for free.
So I think, therefore, by the absence of a qualified vision on what are the mechanisms of causation of accidents involving human decisions, particularly in our country, the situation will become more serious. Because people do not understand the complex phenomenon, and perform "repairs" of problems that are not well posed, which do not correspond to workers reality involved in accidents. Hence the recurrent accidents, violent manifestations of users, the violent demonstrations of workers, unions, etc.. If nothing is done to understand the genesis of these accidents seriously, this situation will continue, in the chaos, "on the road to death" every day. Of course I do not think the point of view of science is by itself sufficient to reverse this trend to chaos, but I think if we could add our view to a "preventive" project , others might be the conclusions of the diagnoses made, and others could be the designed road maps. Let me explain this idea.
What specialists in human behavior in risky situations study is an intangible that escapes to video cameras per se ... what we study is what workers live day to day, which can not be explained in three sentences... we study the moments when they should get away from the rules and run the transportation system ... another thing is safety and how they take it into account in the deviations ... Workers today in Argentina are constantly navigating a world that went off the "normal" rails, initially intended or designed by the engineers (aeronautics, rail, roads, etc..) ... the system itself is derailed, it has migrated as Rasmussen has explained long time ago... workers activity is oriented to achieve, within that Derailment widespread (systems don´t work as well as they have been designed, tehy need to be operated in a degraded mode: non-functioning traffic lights,  non-functioning signal lights on roads,  non-functioning systems to guide pilots on their flights, etc..) as less errors as possible and decide if work is acceptable under these conditions. Motorman often do not start to work because they are against the safety conditions provided by the companies ... then the problem becomes facing the users rage, so that´s how the workers live in hell ... That's why some of them do they job anyway, even against safety rules ... some of them certainly do so because there comes a point where they deny the risks through psychological defenses, the same that fighter pilots or construction workers develop, as we can understand by reading Christophe Dejours´s texts and clear explanations.
My point is that what the cameras let you see is the visible side of worker´s activity, what is observable from the outside, the deviations with respect to the written rules that we know can not be met if we are purists, because in that case not a single plane would take off, not a single train or truck would work ... and again, that happens here in Argentina, but also in many industrially developed countries ... the phenomenon here is increased by the lack of planning in the design or purchase of technology, reaching basic contradictions in the technologies used to deliver the services. The other day a member of the staff of the railway union commented how different rail train parts are purchased from diferent suppliers - for the same train! - and so how we have trains monsters combining technologies that are not 100% compatible, generating potentially serious incidents ...
Thus we have in the market a patchwork of technology that combines different designs, with different logics, that workers must transform into instruments using them very different ways from those wirtten in their operating manuals ... and of course this deviated activities hace their own risks ... and are not infallible creative activities of workers, this "quick fix" has its limits ... but who begins to fix quickly? workers as motorman, pilots, truckers? Or are there also maintenance mechanics and especially line managers involved in the quick fix process? The most advanced theories of accidents take into account organizational factors and resilience as mechanisms to understand causes of accidents ... these models address the involvement of managers in the decisions concerning the technologies that must be used and maintained by workers to transport passengers safely.

If we put cameras in "end workers" workstations as suggested recently by Argentina´s government, we won´t not necessarily understand what explains their deviations with respect to standards. On the other hand, we will not understand what others upstream workers in the system have done to contribute positively or negatively to generate the poor working conditions of the end workers. We will not understand if a bad decision concerning the  maintenance signaling system malfunction was involved or if the decision of a manager in charge of financial decisions of the company decided not to invest in repairing the signs. We will not know anything about what end workers (pilots, motorman, truck drivers) do every day to keep, under these degradated conditions, the trains working as safe - or as less unsafe- as possible. We won´t understand anything. We will "see" everything, but won´t understand much. In any case, if we had to put cameras somewhere, we should start putting them in the offices of those who decide the working conditions of end workers, of drivers, pilots, motorman. We would not understand much, but at least we would be looking at the work of those in charge of the economical and technical decisions concerning system´s safety, not only on the workers that have little power and leeway to change that reality.

2 comentarios:

motorcycle accident lawyer dijo...

I might say that in many cases video cameras or cctv cameras helped a lot in solving many arizona auto accident lawyers cases. The wise and correct use of it will surely help Argentina.

Michelle Aslanides dijo...

Hello Sir,
There are lots of uses of cameras that can help solve lawyers cases, especially when the job itself is not well known... which is often the case of lawyers, as it´s natural... lawyers don`t do ergonomic work analysis in their normal profesional life... What I meant in my note is tha cameras won`t help preventing accidents, meaning understanding the intentions of workers, which are in the scope of policies lately in argentina, pointed out as the guilty ones and responsible for the late accidents, at least the last of Castelar train station. I hope I have explained a little bit better my idea.