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Accident investigation and risk assessment have for decades focused on the human factor, particularly ‘human error’. This bias towards performance failures leads to a neglect of normal performance. It assumes that failures and successes have different origins so there is little to be gained from studying them together. Erik Hollnagel believes this assumption is false and that safety cannot be attained only by eliminating risks and failures. The alternative is to understand why things go right and to amplify that. The ETTO Principle looks at the common trait of people at work to adjust what they do to match the conditions. It proposes that this efficiency-thoroughness trade-off (ETTO) is normal. While in some cases the adjustments may lead to adverse outcomes, these are due to the same processes that produce successes.

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