Join our Webinar – Wednesday, April 26, 2017 – Noon to 1:00 p.m. (EDT)

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Using mental modeling in occupational health and safety: Improving electrical safety through understanding of electricians’ decision making and behavior

Join Decision . Partners Inc. and the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) of Ontario in a webinar hosted by the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA) to learn how mental modeling is being used to improve electrical worker occupational health and safety in Canada. We will present research that lends rich insight into electrician’s decision making and behavior related to working safely. The results are being used to inform development of behavior-focused risk management and risk communication interventions to improve electrical occupational safety in Ontario.

 To register, go to:


About the work

Electricians’ fatal or serious injuries often occur when working on energized systems, even though safety standards advise working de-energized. We used a mental models research method to develop deep insight into the decisions and contexts that lead to working energized. This included developing an ‘expert model’ that illustrates diverse expert understanding of influences on electricians’ safety decisions and behaviors. In-depth interviews with 60 electricians elicited their ‘mental models’ of the same topics. Analysis of the interviews was guided by concepts found in the expert model. Results are informing behavior-focused risk management and risk communication interventions in OH&S regulatory oversight in Ontario. This webinar will be of interest to those in OH&S fields as well as to those who want to know about mental modeling more generally. 

This work was sponsored by ESA and conducted with Decision Partners using Decision Partners’ patented science-informed, evidence-based Mental Modeling Technology™ (MMT™), along with leading practices in cognitive and behavioral psychology, risk communication and risk management. 


About the webinar

Presenters will be Laurel Austin, Adjunct Research Professor at the Ivey Business School and Senior Research Scientist at Decision Partners, Joel Moody, MD, PhD, and MPh, Director of Safety, Risk, Policy and Innovation at the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA), and Sarah Thorne, CEO of Decision . Partners Inc. This webinar is organized and hosted by the Occupational Health and Safety Specialty group of the Society for Risk Analysis (SRA).  For more about SRA, go to





Congratulations to our Senior Scientist, Laurel Austin!

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Our very own Laurel Austin, PhD, was recently recognized by the Case Centre Awards and Competitions 2017 with an award. Laurel’s case study “UCSD: A Cancer Cluster in the Literature Building?” won the Economics, Politics and Business Environment category. This case study, which focuses on risk perceptions in organizations, also won the Outstanding New Case Writer Competition in 2015.

In addition to being part of the Decision Partners team, Laurel is Adjunct Research Professor in Management Science at the Ivey Business School, London, Ontario, which recently featured an article about Laurel and her work.

We congratulate Laurel on receiving his honor!

We’ve made some organizational changes

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Thorne Butte: Decision Partners Inc. in Canada became Decision . Partners Canada Inc., with Sarah Thorne as President. A parallel consulting company, Decision . Partners Inc. was opened in Marietta, Georgia, to serve our U.S. clients, also with Sarah as president. Baruch Fischhoff, PhD, continues to support the companies as Chief Scientist, along with Dan Kovacs, PhD, Senior Scientist, and Laurel Austin, PhD, Research Scientist, and our and experienced team of researchers and consultants.


DP New Logo

We’re in the resilience business!

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After a chance meeting with Nick Martyn, CEO of RiskLogik, we explored mutual interests and in 2016 combined the strengths and talents of the RiskLogik team, including partners Alec Hay of Southern Harbour and Joe Cummins of CYBERNETIQ, with those of our dedicated Decision Partners team. Our combination of state-of-the-science tools, globally recognized techniques, and leading edge technologies puts us at the forefront of operational resilience. 



We’ve published a book!

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We’re excited to announce that our book Mental Modeling Approach: Risk Management Application Case Studies was published in January of this year by Springer. Mental Modeling was co-authored by Sarah Thorne, Gordon Butte, and Dan Kovacs, along with our colleagues Matthew Wood and Igor Linkov at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Mental Modeling presents case study examples of our science-based Mental Modeling TechnologyTM applied to a range of risk communication and stakeholder engagement challenges – flood risk management, mine worker safety, food safety, emergency preparedness and more. Written in a plain, easy-to-read format, it is designed to help risk communicators, risk managers, project managers and others successfully address complex issues related to stakeholder judgment, decision making and behavior through a research-informed approach.

We congratulate our authors and thank all our contributors and clients for making this project a reality!

Using Mental Modelling In Risk Management: Understanding Electrical Occupational Safety Behaviour

Posted & filed under Latest News.

Sarah Thorne, Joel R. K. Moody. Laurel C. Austin,

Decision Partners, Ontario, Canada; Electrical Safety Authority, Ontario, Canada; Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Background: Electric current is a leading cause of occupational fatality in North America. For each fatal electrical occupational injury in Ontario there are about five critical and 18 non-critical injuries. Analyses suggest that unsafe work practices and human error play a role in about 70% of fatal electrical occupational injuries. Electric workers are at especially high risk. To understand the cause of unsafe work practices and develop appropriate risk mitigation strategies, one must first understand the influences on electric workers’ real-time decisions and behaviours.

Method: We used a behavioural science (mental models) research approach to identify and gain insight into those influences. First, we developed an “expert model” of influences on electricians’ judgments and decision making regarding safe work practices based upon a literature review and a workshop with electricians and representatives from electrical associations, unions, NGOs, academia, and government. The expert model informed development of a semi-structured interview protocol to elicit electricians’ “mental models” – their complex webs of beliefs about safe work behaviours and especially the decision to “work energized.” In-depth interviews were conducted with 60 Ontario electricians in Fall 2015 to discuss work experiences and influences on safe work practices. Responses were coded against the expert model.

Results: We will present highlights of the mental models research which showed that electricians’ decision making takes place in cognitively complex situations and the decision to “work energized” is multi-dimensional. Whether an electrician works energized or not-energized is influenced by his or her understanding of the situation, knowledge of electrical work, and the resulting decisions he or she makes. However, these outcomes – working energized or not – are also influenced by contextual factors such as the technology worked on, unobservable situational factors that result from others’ past work on the system, and the decisions and behaviours of others such as customers, general contractors and other trades.

Conclusions: This study is the first to use a decision analytic mental models approach to understand influences on electricians’ decision making and safety behaviours. Resulting insights will inform development of behaviour-focused risk management and risk communications interventions to reduce injury and death.

Decision Partners is now partnered with RiskLogik

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Decision Partners is now partnered with RiskLogik. RiskLogik is the resilience company, providing resilience solutions to public and private sector organizations with military-grade precision. Working with key leaders globally, the RiskLogik team provides the resilience decision support they need to be confident when making resilience investments, implementing resilience projects and managing disaster events.
Ask us about our new combined Resilience Solutions Technology™ — the power of Mental Modeling Technology with the RiskLogik™ suite of tools and techniques — designed to help leaders assess the vulnerabilities of their organizations and take appropriate actions to build resilience before disaster strikes. Resilience Solutions Technology™ – Confidence in a World of Change.