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Human Factors in Safety Critical Organisations

High reliability organisations require strong human performance to meet safety performance and business requirements. Human Factors skills and knowledge improve safety performance and enhance business performance as your organisation experiences fewer events, delays and rework attributed to human error.

Human Factors training originated in the aviation industry following research by NASA which showed that the majority of aviation accidents were caused by human error. This training has been extensively developed in the aviation industry and is now a mandatory requirement for commercial flight crews worldwide. Recently, other high risk, high reliability industries in sectors including energy, healthcare, fire service, rail, maritime and petrochemical have recognised the benefits of human factors based error management programs.

A human factors approach to safety differs from traditional safety training in that the focus is less with the technical knowledge and skills required to perform specific tasks, but rather with the cognitive and interpersonal skills needed to effectively manage a team-based, high-risk activity.

A key objective is to equip the workforce with a range of non-technical skills that complement technical competency and include teamwork, situational awareness, decision making, communication and workload and fatigue management.

All staff need to recognise that human error is inevitable and that cooperative and collaborative teams are the greatest asset to achieving safety and high reliability in complex or hazardous work environments. At all levels within the workforce there should be an understanding of the human causes of error and an ability to take a more proactive approach to the avoidance, trapping and mitigating of errors.

Human Factors in safety critical organisations
Benefits of human factors training

Human Factors training recognises that human error is inevitable and develops a proactive approach to error management that can benefit organisations in a number of ways:

  • Increasing awareness and identification of human risks
  • Accurate identification of the underlying causes
  • Adopting a non-punitive approach to error management
  • Developing an organisational ‘learning culture’ that has the support and buy-in of its employees
  • Improve human performance
  • Reduce risks
  • Reduce frequency of human error
  • Reduce consequences of human error
  • Increase individual and organisational efficiency

Human factors training enhances the safety skills of employees and provides a foundation for a just culture with safe and reliable systems and processes. This training provides tools and techniques to identify and understand the root causes of incidents and accidents, and to promote learning from incidents to identify actions to prevent re-occurrence.