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Friday, 11 April 2014

Investigating operational decision making in safety critical industries: The case of commercial air maintenance

 Research Seminar Series


“Investigating operational decision making in safety critical industries:
The case of commercial air maintenance”


Dr Dimitris Nathanael

Lecturer at the National Technical University of Athens


Friday, April 25, 2014

Time: 16:00-17:00

International Hellenic University, Lecture Room B1


The School of Economics, Business Administration and Legal Studies of the International Hellenic University (IHU) would like to invite you to the next presentation in the Research Seminar Series. Dr Dimitris Nathanael, lecturer at the National Technical University of Athens, will present the topic of "Investigating operational decision making in safety critical industries: the case of commercial air maintenance".

The purpose of the Research Seminar Series is to bring together the academic and business community by presenting contemporary research topics in Finance, Business, Marketing, Accounting and Economics, among others. Through these seminars, as an international centre of knowledge, innovation and research, at the crossroads of Southern Europe, the IHU attempts to further strengthen its strategic role in academic excellence. Drawing on the experience of outstanding Greek and international academics, working papers are presented on a regular basis, with the aim of establishing a meeting point for active researchers.


Speaker information:

Dimitris Nathanael is a lecturer at the National Technical University of Athens, School of Mechanical Engineering, sector of Industrial Management & Operations Research, where he teaches ergonomics / human factors, design innovation and safety management courses. Between 2004 and 2009 he was adjunct lecturer at the University of Aegean teaching ergonomics, interaction design and applied cognitive science at the Department of Product and Systems Design. He holds an Engineering diploma in Production Engineering & Management science, Technical University of Crete, a Graduate degree D.E.A. in Ergonomics, from the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (C.N.A.M.) in France, and a PhD in the field of Cognitive Ergonomics, from the National Technical University of Athens. He is the President of the Hellenic Ergonomics Society and the national representative in the International Ergonomics Association. He is a certified European Ergonomist (EurErg) and has served as the national representative of Greece in the Centre for Registration of European Ergonomists (CREE). Before joining the academia, Dimitris has worked in for several years in industry as a consultant in ergonomics and occupational safety, an activity that he continues practicing alongside his academic affairs.

His scientific interests span across all facets of the interaction of humans with technology with an emphasis on cognition. His work draws theoretical constructs from psychological theories of human activity, phenomenology, cultural & cognitive anthropology and sociotechnical systems engineering. He is a keen advocate of studying people in the wild, developing and employing various methods of naturalistic and participatory research. Current research topics include: Knowledge management in safety critical systems, driving assistance technologies and virtual reality training systems among others.


Presentation at a glance:

Safety critical industries including nuclear, chemical and transportation, are characterized by elaborate technical barriers, heavy regulation, detailed operational procedures as well as multilevel and multiparty controls. This complex set of technical, regulatory and managerial measures is at the heart of their high reliability and for good cause. This being largely true, still accidents do occur, and their consequences are well known to all (Air France Flight 447, Galicia Train Crash, Costa Concordia grounding among the recent ones). What is staggering in the subsequent investigation of such accidents is that despite the elaborate technical and organizational measures, the human element appears more and more as a major contributing factor. In the aviation domain failures related with the human element (either pilot of maintenance errors) are by far the primary causal factor of air crashes. The consideration of “human error” as a major cause for accidents led for years to a series of error preventing programs in aircraft maintenance as in other safety critical domains. These programs followed what might be called the perfectibility ideal: training, motivation and disciplinary action would lead to error-free human performance. However, treating errors as the etiological category of systemic failures may be unproductive beyond a certain level of system complexity. Recent research on safety management tends to accept that deviations, uncertainties and surprises are inherent and to a large extent inevitable in complex safety critical domains. Studies on the assessment and management of risk tend to focus less on errors per se and turn to the analysis of contextual and organizational factors as well as to their complex interrelations as sources of both poor and successful performance. In this research seminar we will briefly present the results of an extended field observation study in a commercial Air Maintenance Organization in Greece (AMO). Typically in AMOs, air maintenance technicians (A.M.T) face a constant double pressure for procedure compliance versus operational demands. This is endemic to AMOs since the domain is characterized by time/cost/criticality, heavy regulation to ensure airworthiness and a non-negligible level of complexity - variability. The study focuses on the identification and cognitive analysis of concrete cases where AMTs face dilemmas and take decisions during the performance of scheduled maintenance tasks. The aim of the study was to analyse in fine detail the technicians’ decision frame in each particular case, and moving upwards to investigate how these decision frames are influenced by higher level organizational trade-offs.


Dr Vassiliki Grougiou
Tel.: +30 2310 807540
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Additional Info

  • Event date: Friday, 25 April 2014
  • Event time: 16:00
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