What are Safety-I and Safety-II? How can technology bridge the gap?

Safety-I investigates why things go wrong. Safety-II investigates why things go right. Data is essential for any safety plan to be fully functional.

Safety, along with the issue of security, is the most substantial and critical issue for all businesses in the world. Out of which, shipping is perhaps the most international and one of the most dangerous industries. 

A UK study has shown that it’s 5 times more likely to have a fatal accident on a ship than on construction sites. And on average, every 7 days a ship sinks.

The safety operations in the maritime industry are a complex sociotechnical system. There are four dominance levels that influences the operations in safety:

  • Technical level, for instance, intelligence technique application
  • Individual level like seafarer's psychological and physiological status
  • Organizational level includes safety culture, regulations and guidelines, etc
  • Environmental level contains both natural and physical environment

While the industry works hard to reduce both intentional and unintentional dangers, the safety level has not been able to match with the expectation of the industry, and therefore, different safety management strategies are introduced to provide different perspectives.

Safety-I investigates why things go wrong.

Safety-I is the conventional safety management strategy that is applied in the maritime industry. The principle of it is to ensure as few things as possible go wrong. It focuses on identifying the contributory factors of accidents and then leveraging risk assessments to determine the likelihood of similar accidents. For example, planned maintenance is part of safety-I. Through regular inspection, shipping companies expect to eliminate causes or improve barriers to accidents. 

This makes safety-I a reactive method. Because humans are the most variable components on the vessel, they are viewed predominantly as a liability or hazard.

Safety-II investigates why things go right. 

In comparison to Safety-I, Safety-II is a proactive approach trying to continuously anticipate developments and events in safety management. Instead of checking accidents’ causes and factors, the focus of Safety-II is to identify and characterize the impacting factors that are involved in the successful cases of maritime shipping from a positive perspective. In Safety-II, humans are viewed as safeguards as they are more flexible and resilient. 

Below is an overview of the main difference between Safety-I and Safety-II.

Though Safety-I and Safety-II are two distinct perspectives of safety, they are not mutually exclusive. As is widely known, various guidelines, standards, and rules issued by the IMO are built based on risks that can imperil the safety level. On the other hand, as illustrated above, shipping operation is a complicated system that involves much uncertainty which can lead to high probability of unexpected events, hence it’s also important to implement Safety-II to ensure things go right.

How technology bridges the gap

Whether it’s for safety-I or for safety-II, data is essential for any safety plan to be fully functional. 

However, even though maintenance system is built around regularly collecting data, the actual utility of data is very low. One reason for this is that the inspection data collected is in different formats - excel, paper, picture. HSEQ teams need to spend an enormous amount of time to capture any learnings from the inspection data. On the other hand, it’s easy to get inaccurate inspection data. This not only makes it hard to know the actual state of vessel health (Safety-I) but also creates limitations to advanced technologies like artificial intelligence (Safety-II).

COVID has enforced many shipping companies to adopt digitized remote inspections methods. Though the tasks of routine inspection are carried out, the challenge remains in the reliability of data. In this case, a tool that can combine Safety-I, Safety-II, and digitized inspection to collect reliable inspection data is necessary. In Kaiko Systems' case, through in-App data collection guidance, Kaiko Systems empowers seafarers to leverage the human factor’s flexibility and intelligence to collect standardized and completed data. The data plausibility function on the one hand controls the reliability of the data. After the inspection data is collected, the system automatically processes the data into the visualized dashboard so the HSEQ teams can have an overview of the actual state of the vessel’s health and know what deficiencies are important and urgent to take care of. Through trend analysis, the HSEQ team can also be proactive in risk management.


A safe business is a profitable and well-run business. Though it’s hard to see the economic growth safety can bring to a business, it is known for sure that doing something about consequences is generally much more expensive compared to averting or reducing the probability and the initiating causes of an accident. Therefore, safety improvements need to be a continuous project.

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