The future of safety science

Paul Swuste, Jop Groeneweg, Coen Van Gulijk, Walter Zwaard, Saul Lemkowitz, Yvette Oostendorp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Ever since safety started to be investigated in a consistent manner, around 150 years ago, there has been a tremendous improvement, both in our understanding of accident processes, and in reduction of harm and damage caused by these occupational and major accidents. Major improvements in safety theories, models and metaphors were made after World War II, with the late 1970s till the late 1990s as the ‘golden years’. But still these major accidents occur and they will keep prompting future scientific developments in safety, as they have done in the past. Reducing the frequency of major accidents remains challenging. Improving design and automation, as starting point for safety has its limits due to the complexity of processes and the inability to foresee all safety related conflicts. The modern emphasis to assure the capacity to handle unforeseen events, such as resilience promises to deliver, will become even more important in the future. Inherent safe design on the other hand make a sensible approach when designing production processes for emerging and future technologies, like nano- and biotechnology. Also, it will remain difficult for small and medium sized enterprises to adhere to complicated laws and regulations. In addition, an increased participation of stakeholder groups makes future safety decision-making even more challenging than it already is today. Yet we foresee that there may be grounds for change in which safety rules, laws and regulations are set aside, the bureaucratic approach towards safety is stopped and the focus is on dynamic accident processes detection. Today, methods are developed to automatically assess time-dependant advancement of accident scenarios and barrier degradation. This direction will contribute substantially to a future higher level of safety in different industrial sectors and might alleviate the emphasis on bureaucracy. We end with developments in two countries where safety and safety science is emerging.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104593
Number of pages9
JournalSafety Science
Early online date12 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'The future of safety science'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this