This PhD project is funded by the Energy Institute, UK. The project is supervised by Dr Amy Irwin, Dr Doug Martin, Dr Ruby Roberts and Stuart King, the PhD student is Nejc Sedlar.
The Energy Industry encompasses multiple elements including oil and gas, wind farms, nuclear and biomass energy. The industry is considered high risk, both in terms of worker safety and the capacity for environmental disaster. The industry has worked hard to develop a solid framework of process safety management (PSM) which aims to reduce the threat of catastrophic incidents and mitigate the consequences of any adverse incidents that do occur. A key aspect of developing and maintaining this framework is understanding the psychological element behind human behaviour, including the causes and impacts of cognitive heuristics (mental shortcuts) and biases. This includes the topic of risk normalisation – the acceptance and explanation of poor practice and anomalies over time, eventually resulting in the perception that a certain level of deviance is expected and therefore acceptable. Despite the potential importance of understanding these aspects of human behaviour, there is still a lack of comprehensive research on these aspects, particularly why and how biases and normalisation develop, within the context of the Energy Industry.
The PhD project aims to explore cognitive bias and risk normalisation within the context of the energy industry. The first step will be a systematic review of the literature when the project begins in October 2020.