Dr Linda Janet Bellamy, C.ErgHF FCIEHF CPsychol AFBPsS Managing Director, White Queen
Dr Linda Bellamy
I have been interested in the safety of people at work and people living with the risk of harm since the late 1970s. Over the past 40 years my thinking has evolved in pace with new developments and I have built upon my own experiences in tackling new problems as they arise.
Quality control in manufacturing industry
I studied Psychology at the University of Leeds, where I did my PhD research on eye movements. I then went to the University of Birmingham in 1978 to do research on visual inspection in manufacturing industry. I learnt a lot from the application of signal detection theory about missed signals and biases people have in their responses. At this time the work of W. Edwards Deming and Total Quality Management were becoming influential, focusing attention on the influence of management on human performance.
Age of the organisational accident
In 1981 I transferred to the Ergonomics Development Unit of the University of Aston in Birmingham. The loss of coolant accident at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the US in 1979 had led to a surge of interest in human reliability due to the realisation that human factors play a critical role in system safety. I started to study human failure in sociotechnical systems. I found communications issues to be particularly important.
Human and organisational factors in risk assessment
In 1984 I went into consultancy and became head of the Human Factors Unit which I formed at Technica in London, a leader in risk assessment. I learnt about the intricacies of risk assessment from experts in the field and was able to identify the points in the process where the human factor could be built in. This included areas such as fault and event tree modelling (bow-ties), event frequencies, auditing of chemical plants, and escape and evacuation. Human Reliability Assessment (HRA) was a leading concern at the time. In this period some important accidents occurred including the Bhopal toxic chemical release in 1984, the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986, and the Piper Alpha offshore accident in 1988. This period initiated my thinking on integrated human-technical models.
In 1990 I became Director and Head of Safety Management and Human Factors at the consultancy Four Elements which later became ERM Risk, part of Environmental Resources Management Ltd. I took a leading role in developing scenario-based safety management system auditing for major hazards, the idea being to develop auditing questions directly related to the integrity of safety critical equipment, particularly pipework and vessel failures in chemical installations. An accident in offshore construction involving the sinking of the Sleipner concrete gravity base structure in 1991 resulted in the further development of an auditing methodology, in this case to assist in assessing construction risks, based around selecting the failure of a critical technical component.
Seveso and inspection tools
In 1995 I moved to the Netherlands. For the first 7 years I was a partner at Save Consulting Scientists. The EU project I-Risk brought together those involved in internal worker safety and external public safety around hazardous installations, chemical engineers and human factors expertise, risk assessment and safety management. In this period the Seveso II Directive came into force (1996) which meant that European countries had to work on its implementation. At this point all my experience to date on risk and management modelling was brought to bear on developing inspection tools around the Dutch implementation process.
Storybuilder and accident analysis
After starting the independent safety consultancy White Queen Safety Strategies in 2003, the most significant development was the Storybuilder method and software for accident analysis. Now managed by RIVM, the Storybuilder databases contain more than 30,000 occupational accidents and more than 300 major hazard accidents from detailed investigated accident reports. It is an integrated human-technical model structured around the risk bow-tie. Accidents like the Texas City refinery explosion and the Buncefield explosion and fire in 2005 can be modelled as overfilling accidents in Storybuilder.
With increasing complexity and interdependencies in systems, resilience has become an important topic. In 2015 I coordinated a European SAF€RA project on resilience which looked at how uncertainty in high risk situations is successfully managed. The research led to the development and practical application of a serious game using cards where the players deal with solving a simulation of a real case for which standard procedures do not apply. I am a certified trainer for this game.