The 5 Basic Principles of HOP (Human and Organizational Performance)

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by Scott Gaddis

Human and Organizational Performance systems, better known as HOP, have garnered much recent discussion and interest by many organizations, who see it as a better approach to improving safety performance. The premise of HOP is the idea that human error is inevitable so perhaps through better process systems management and analysis, organizations might lessen the effect of human error through the promotion of defenses that reduce risk.  

It is with this thinking that organizations can build management system robustness by understanding how workers perform their daily work tasks and then understanding what the gaps or errors are within the management system and close the gaps through what is commonly referred to as defenses. 

Conversation is imperative for HOP and most critical to success. Active listening and learning (worker-to-worker and worker-to-management) is necessary to understand where failure and loss is possible. It requires looking back at past events where loss was experienced, reviewing the present where errors are armed and ready to strike, and it’s an eye into the future to identify certain job tasks that promote the chance of loss.   

HOP is about experience and communication and seeks to understand the information gathered and insights shared by those closest to the work, the workers on the front line who recognize error-likely situations because they have experienced them. 

The other dimension of HOP is likely familiar to most, and that is using a systems safety approach to identify and understand errors and then eliminate or control them.  A systems-based approach to safety uses engineering and management tools to identify, analyze and control risks, not just hazards. Through this process, human factors are identified and addressed along with any organizational attributes that can threaten defenses and heighten risk.   

Most important is the understanding that HOP is not a program, it’s an improvement process that gets better over time as trust grows in the organization.  

There are five basic principles that are widely adopted by most HOP practitioners:

1. People make errors. 

2. Error-likely situations are predictable. 

3. All human actions are influenced by the context in which they occur. 

4. Operational upsets can be avoided. 

5. Our response to failure matters. 

Considering these principles, changing our response when loss occurs from a culture of blame to a culture of understanding is warranted.  Deviation in the work system is going to occur and at times, we are going to get something other than what we would expect.   

People work in the context of systems and those systems need to properly defend against human error.  Better said, these principles promote an understanding that accepting data from various sources gives operational intelligence that in turn can be used to build additional control.   

Employing HOP increases management and worker participation, helping organizations learn from experiences. By increasing knowledge of the risks that reside within the work system, the door opens for more effective levels of control.  A combined and integrated approach supports the idea of a progressive partnership of management and employees working together to own safety and health in a way that reduces the potential of loss.   

About the Author: Scott Gaddis, Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Safety and Health

Scott Gaddis, Vice President, Global Practice Leader, Safety and Health at Intelex Technologies. He has over 25 years in EHS leadership experience in heavy manufacturing, pharmaceuticals and packaging industries. Before joining Intelex, Scott served as Vice President of EHS for Coveris High Performance Packaging, was Executive Director of EHS at Bristol-Myers Squibb, and was Global Leader for Occupational Safety and Health at Kimberly-Clark Corp.