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About Us


The mission of Human Factors & Risk Management is to simultaneously advance the theory and practice of risk management to improve individual and organizational health, safety and performance. The unit will help Forest Service employees, especially fire managers, to be among the world's leading practitioners of complex risk management, decision making, and sense-making. The unit will link leading scientists from a variety of disciplines (including human factors, risk analysis, and organizational development) with Forest Service practitioners, and interagency fire managers, to promote the practice of leading edge risk management and high performance. Human factors is often defined as the practice of applying scientific knowledge from varied, mostly human science disciplines such as psychology, medicine, anthropology and physiology to designing, building, maintaining and managing systems and products. It includes trying to understand in detail how people adaptively manage risk to create safety in complex living systems.


The vision of Human Factors & Risk Management includes:

  • Zero fatalities in a high risk environment
  • Forest Service employees recognized among the world's leading practitioners of complex risk management, decision-making, and sense-making
  • Other organizations look to the Forest Service as a model of high reliability, a just culture, and a learning culture where health& safety are ingrained
  • A balanced scorecard displays trends in a few vital signals that are tracking high performance, health, and safety.
  • A sharply decreasing trend in lost time accidents, fatalities, workers compensation claims.

Core Values

The following values are core principles that guide the work of Human Factors & Risk Management:

  • Integral Theory: This theory applies of the model of integrating all approaches and perspectives to a problem or opportunity. (See Ken Wilber's 4-quardrant model in appendix C for more details.) Individual meaning, collective culture and values, external behavior and procedures and systems are analyzed in a holistic approach. All four quadrants provide important perspectives from which to analyze problems and craft solutions. No quadrant can be left out. This principle also refers to the fact that health, safety and high performance are linked. It also refers to the need to combine knowledge from a variety of disciplines, such as sports psychology, ecological psychology, behavioral medicine, organizational development, and mind/body research.
  • Action Research: The core dynamic with action research is intervening in real-world situations to simultaneously improve management practices and advance scientific theory. It includes the important concept of reflection-in-action.
  • Living Systems: Simply put, “our mechanistic models of organizational or human functioning can never capture the organic, relational processes that gradually nudge a sociotechnical system to the edge of breakdown.” We must begin to make commonplace the language, metaphors, and images of dynamic living systems.
  • Positive Organizational Scholarship: Since the 1990's there has been a quiet revolution in the field of psychology, what has come to be known as “positive psychology.” This has begun to filter into organizational studies and is becoming known as “positive organizational scholarship.” At its core, Positive Organizational Scholarship investigates “positive deviance,” or the ways in which organizations and their members flourish and prosper in extraordinary ways. Indeed, the discipline's name embodies the core values of the movement. 'Positive' addresses the discipline's affirmative bias. 'Organizational' focuses on the processes and conditions that occur in organizational contexts. 'Scholarship' reflects the rigor, theory, scientific procedures and precise definition in which the approach is grounded. This positive approach does not ignore, deny, or denigrate the negative phenomena and problems found in organizations. It seeks, instead, to study organizations and organizational contexts typified by appreciation, collaboration, vitality, and fulfillment, where creating abundance and human well-being are key indicators of success. It seeks to understand what represents the best of the human condition.