The RESOH (Research in Human and Organisational Safety) Chair

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1. An original, innovative project

The RESOH chair was established in March 2012 as a joint initiative of École des Mines de Nantes (IMT Atlantique) and three industrial partners (Areva, Naval Group and IRSN) to create a space for scientific exchange and production in the field of the human and organisational aspects of safety. It is a training and research chair.

The overall theme: working together towards "safe industrial performance". The innovative nature of this research issue springs from the focus on organisational relations and a desire to avoid isolating industrial performance from safety. One of the unique aspects of this chair is the association of nuclear operators and the technical support of the French Nuclear Safety Authority.

2. Active governance

The chair relies on active governance which allows for regular discussions between the industrial partners and the researchers. Operational Committees (COP) are held every three months to assess work progress. These are the chair's steerage committees. A Scientific Committee (CS) made up of four recognised scientific experts meets every year and issues a recommendation based on the scientific report which is submitted to them. The COPIL (steering committee) is the chair's management policy committee.  It votes on budgets and discusses the direction to be followed according to the Scientific Committee's recommendations. 

3. A multidisciplinary team

The operational budget of the chair (€300K per year over five years) has made it possible to build a team of four researchers and a doctoral student who have been joined by a researcher from the IRSN (French Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety Institute) and a researcher from the University of Nantes. They are all associated with LEMNA (Nantes-Atlantique Airport Laboratory of Economics and Management). Three researchers are specialised in management, two in organisational sociology and one in ergonomics. This interdisciplinarity enriches the results produced.

The chair operates under the responsibility of Benoît Journé (university professor). The team is made up of Stéphanie Tillement (lecturer, IMT Atlantique), Rima Ayoub (associate lecturer, IMT Atlantique), Stéphane Guyard (associate lecturer, IMT Atlantique), Jérémy Eydieux (doctoral student, LEMNA), Stéphanie Gentil (University of Nantes) and Hélène Faye (IRSN, LSHS).

4. A research method connected with the field

The general research issue is broken down into four lines, to facilitate teaching:

(1) Management of complex projects.  Current work is in analysing planning problems related to the complexity of projects which involve both the purchaser's teams and those of the vendors. Our work shows to what extent scheduling ensures the smooth running of planned activities and therefore contributes to the resilience of an organisation when it is faced with unforeseen issues. It also shows the multiple additional roles of scheduling, which are likely to have a positive or negative influence on the project's performance.

(2) Management of contractual commitments. Current work shows how contracts affect the quality of relations between the purchaser and the vendors and makes it possible to manage potential or actual conflict, particularly when it comes to developing partnership relationships. We are working on modelling the value of partnership relations (purchaser expectations and vendor expectations) and methods of optimising them throughout the duration of the relationship.

(3) Vendor relations. Current work involves analysis of organisational problems confronting people on the field when the purchaser's personnel and the vendor's personnel are called upon to "work together", particularly when there is a need for adaptability in the face of unforeseen events. Our work analyses local solutions found for "working well" together.

(4) Safety demonstrations and technical dialogue. The current thesis analyses how, and to what extent, the technical dialogue included in safety demonstrations incorporates elements of resilience and "managed security" present in a dangerous activity such as heavy load handling in the nuclear industry.

Each line of research constitutes an in-depth enquiry into fields opened up by industrial partners.

  • a demolition site - Naval Group
  • heavy load-handling operations - Naval Group
  • scheduled stop projects for maintenance - AREVA
  • sub-contracted maintenance activities - AREVA
  • a construction project - Naval Group
  • the development of a safety demonstration file - AREVA
  • technical dialogue/safety demonstration - IRSN

Our researchers work by immersing themselves in the organisations they study, where they carry out their observations and interviews with people who are directly facing the issues. The data collected in this way is analysed and used for a diagnosis which is given to the people on the field, opening the way for an in-depth study and a theoretical generalisation. The results of this research are aimed at identifying the levers for action which could have an impact on safe industrial performance in each of the chair's four lines of research.

5. Validation and appropriation of the results

In addition to scientific publications and presentations in symposiums, the chair produces reports such as case studies, rich in verbatim comments and other field data, for use by industrial partners. Every three months the research results are discussed by the Operational, Scientific Committee and Steering Committees. A "Partners' Day" has provided us with the opportunity to present results to all our partners. The chair was an active participant in the "Journées du Risque" symposium (conference on workplace risks, 16-18 November 2016). The results have also been highlighted in classes given to the school's engineering students.

The Resoh chair in a few figures (2012-2016)

  • Funding: €300K per year over five years.
  • A team of seven researchers, including five IMT Atlantique teachers (a professor, a lecturer, two associate lecturers and a doctoral student); a senior lecturer (University of Nantes) and an IRSN researcher (LSHS laboratory).
  • Governance: 16 operational committees and five steering committees which have allowed us to support discussions between partners for five years. Additionally, four scientific committees have made it possible to submit the quality of our work to external experts.
  • Research projects: eight fields opened up by partners to feed the chair's four lines of research. Each project has provided research reports to the people in the field.
  • Research reports: two reports (themes 1 and 3) on the Melox and La Hague fields.
  • Publications: two articles in CNRS/AERES magazines, 22 presentations in national and international scientific symposiums, one book and two book chapters.
  • One thesis in progress (presentation planned for Spring 2017).
  • Organisation of a scientific conference on workplace risks including the themes: "People and organisations in networks" and "Investigating the nuclear world".
  • Organisation of a "Partners' Day" in January 2015 (Paris) bringing together 50 participants from three partners.
  • Seven research seminars within the chair.
  • Four educational developments: the development of the Sprintfield simulation, and since 2013 the use the NTSE, STAR and QSF options of IMT AtlantiqueÉcole des Mines de Nantes (IMT Atlantique), for training engineers and in safety management classes for SNEAM (Sustainable Nuclear Engineering: Applications and Management) masters students.