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Human factors are an integral component of safe and efficient operations within major hazard facility, petroleum and geothermal energy operations. These types of operations have major accident potential and many safety critical tasks to prevent and mitigate major accident events are human-dependent.
Ensuring human factors is properly managed in major hazard facility, petroleum and geothermal energy operations can significantly lower operating risks and risks to safety for workers, the community and the environment.
Human factors are an established science with a focus on understanding interactions among humans and other elements of a system. It applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimise human wellbeing and overall system performance.
Human factors applied to safety recognise the relationships and interactions between three types of components in the system which contribute to the likelihood and outcome of accidents, incidents and injuries. These are:
Human factors focuses on understanding how human performance is shaped by conditions within the system. That is, what tasks people are being asked to do and the characteristics of the task, who is doing the tasks and their competence, and the environment in which people are working and its attributes.
Integrating human factors into safety management systems is important for achieving error-tolerant systems. While the focus of this information is on safety and safety management systems, it is also important to acknowledge that other systems such as human resources, performance management and contracting models within the organisation also influence human performance.
Integrating human factors into a safety management system does not mean creating a new section in the existing documentation. Operators can demonstrate how human factors have been considered in existing sections of the safety management system (SMS) documentation.
Safety management system documentation should clearly demonstrate how human factors have been considered in the management of risk. The risk management process does not change. The risk management process should include and demonstrate consideration of various aspects of the system on human performance in the areas of prevention, initiation, detection, control, escalation, mitigation and emergency response when identifying, assessing and controlling for major incident events (MIEs) and major accident events (MAEs).
For example, you may wish to describe how safety-critical tasks where human intervention acts as a control or safeguard against MIEs and MAEs are identified, including identifying performance-shaping factors, potential human errors and controls to reduce the risk by supporting the desired human performance.
The existence of a safety management system that does not consider human factors may not be sufficient to demonstrate the risks associated with MIEs and MAEs have been reduced to low as reasonably practicable (ALARP).
DMIRS has guidance and tools to assist you in integrating human factors into your safety management systems.
Major accident and incident events are managed through risk control measures (barriers) and various safety management system elements ensure these risk control measures are effective and maintain their integrity during the entire lifecycle of a facility.
Controls should be targeted at the sources of risk within the system. This is done in the first instance through elimination controls followed by engineering, isolation and substitution controls.
Common controls to support desired human performance focus on equipment design, workplace design, task and job design, and design of processes and procedures, supervision, and monitoring.
Where there are safety-critical activities in which people act as the safeguard or barrier for major accident events and incidents, a safety critical task analysis (SCTA) should be carried out. The fundamental steps in a SCTA are:
Human factors plays a vital role in emergency management. A prepared, well-rehearsed emergency management system will increase the likelihood that human performance will help mitigate the emergency or abnormal situation.
Preparation involves identifying likely emergency scenarios, developing emergency response plans including the equipment necessary and practising these plans regularly.
Key human factors vital for an effective and efficient emergency management system are:
Applying human factors to incident analysis focuses on explaining ‘how’ and ‘why’ the event or incident occurred within the context of the situation. Building a detailed timeline of what occurred is important for understanding the contextual factors within the system which influenced human performance. These performance-shaping factors would have no influence if it weren’t for time. For example, workload, fatigue, distractions, problem escalation are meaningless without understanding the time constraints.
Examining the organisational-related, job-related and individual-related characteristics within the system to identify technical failures, as well as design-induced errors and human errors involves collecting data about these characteristics that are relevant to the event or incident. Collecting data from the following sources may be useful:
Once you have explained how and why the event or incident occurred, the next step is to develop recommendations for improvement or prevention.
The following questions may assist in identifying recommendations or corrective actions to reduce the risk to as low as reasonably practicable:
The key to effective incident analysis is to ensure that the approach used discovers the underlying reasons why an incident occurred, not just the error made by the last person involved.
Effective incident analysis is promoted by a ‘no blame’, ‘just’ or ‘learning’ culture – a culture that encourages incident reporting and examines performance-shaping factors within the broader system that led to the incident occurring, to make improvements to the system to reduce the likelihood of reoccurrence.
This information has been adapted from:
Other regulator guidance
Health and Safety Executive UK – https://www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/index.htm
The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) – https://www.nopsema.gov.au/offshore-industry/safety/human-factors .
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