Safe workplaces I - Changes in production and the importance of a holistic view from an HTO perspective

Within the industry, development takes place rapidly and changes of various sizes take place on an ongoing basis. The changes may apply to new equipment, robotization, organizational design, etc. However, a change often affects the production more broadly than one thinks and affects more than the employees most directly affected. Therefore, in the case of planned changes, an overall perspective based on human, technology, organization (HTO) is needed for long-term sustainable, safe, attractive and flexible operations. Using the HTO perspective means paying attention to the interaction and involves a proactive systematic way of working.

It is in the interaction or interface between H, T and O that risks often arise. In other words, the employee's abilities (physical, psychological, cognitive and social) need to be put in relation to how the work is designed technically, physically and organizationally (goals and management, formal routines and working methods, etc.)[1]. The conditions for the work need to be adapted based on the employee's knowledge and ability to handle a work step (H). Access to the required technology and equipment needs to be secured and the design of the workplace must function safely and effectively (T). Furthermore, instructions and knowledge of rules and routines are required, but also clarification of self-control and freedom of action for the employee (O).

Specify the change and describe the interaction Human, technology, organization (HTO)

When the planned change can be described (what and how), it is important to assess to what extent the change will affect the work environment as a whole. Some examples:

  • A change in a smaller area of production may affect others than those who work there, such as employees in warehouses, logistics and production maintenance. (H)
  • A technological development with a faster pace in one part of production may affect other parts and other technology. (T)
  • By, for example, reorganizing logistical flows, scheduling and team composition may be affected. (O)

Important questions to ask yourself when making a change [2]

When looking at the work being carried out, it is important to take a system perspective and not just focus on individual tasks. Three levels can be distinguished. Individual tasks create a work content and the work is performed in a given work situation[3].


A work task can be defined as a coherent part that leads to a certain result. Each of the employees performs a number of tasks in their daily work, which may be of the same or different nature, for example physical work may be interspersed with administrative tasks.

The work content for an employee is made up of the sum of all tasks that he performs, for example during a day or week. It can also represent the range of tasks that a production flow or production area has to distribute between the various employees.

The work tasks can be organized in different ways and from the point of view of physical exposure and variation for the employees are more or less well distributed.

Working situation refers to the context and environment in which the work is performed. Different types of production/activity have different environments and basic conditions. Furthermore, organizational forms, leadership and the prevailing culture influence working conditions on the conditions for the tasks. The basic layout of the production also plays a role, such as layout, flexibility, production principles and logistics.

Analyze potential risks and effects

It is important to work with the identification and assessment of risks step by step and systematically in order to find good solutions and to be able to implement the right measures in the right "place" and on time. The model below is based on an HTO perspective and the three levels of the work environment described.

The HTO model is intended to support a systematic way of working to identify and analyze factors that can constitute sources of risk (the cause of the risk) and which in turn can lead to ill health or accidents. Which factors in the model are important depends on how the local human, technical and organizational conditions look like and which changes are planned.

Step 1: Limit by choosing the most relevant level (task/station, area or company) during the analysis.

Step 2: Identify possible effects/consequences and work systematically based on Human – Technology - Organization.

Step 3: Analyze and assess the changed conditions, effects and risks (positive and negative).

Step 4: The effects and risks that are evaluated as probable in the case of a planned change may require measures, which can be implemented in different ways. The best thing is to remove the risk completely, alternatively isolate or shield it. When all other measures have been evaluated and the workers cannot obtain full safety, it needs to be supplemented with warning, personal protective equipment and training.

Evaluate and possibly develop new solution proposals

[1] Inspirerad av: Westlander G, (1993), Socialpsykologi, Tankemodeller om människor i arbete, Akademikerförlaget

[2] Jarebrant C, Mattsson S, Skagert K, Widfeldt M, 2021

[3] Inspirerad av: Westlander G, (1993), Socialpsykologi, Tankemodeller om människor i arbete, Akademikerförlaget

[4] Jarebrant C, Mattsson S, Skagert K, Widfeldt M, 2021


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This article is categorised as Advanced  |  Published 2023-06-27  |  Authored by Matilda Hurtig