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The way sociotechnical systems are conceptually understood influences the result of the safety assessments of such systems.
In the literature on the safety of sociotechnical systems, the starting point for the descriptions is often the system components, while the relations are seen as resulting from these components. In this article, it is argued that the relations of a sociotechnical system should be understood as primary entities, defining and shaping the components.
A consequence of such a relational focus, it is argued, is that system evaluations become more labour-demanding than approaches that take generic, pre-defined components as the point of departure. In return, they become more relevant and precise to the specific system in question.