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Element IA7: Human Factors

Element IA7:
Human Factors

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Element IA7: Human Factors

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Element IA7: Human Factors


Human Psychology, Sociology and Behaviour


The Three Spheres of Influence

The Individual


Human Failure


The Organisation


The Job


The Process of Behavioural Change


Behavioural Change Programmes




Individual Differences
Individual Behaviour
Risk Perception
Hale and Hale Systems Model of Human Behaviour
Problem Solving
Decision Making
Human Failure and Accidents
Rasmussens SRK Taxonomy
Hale And Glendons Behaviour In The Face Of Danger Model (1987)
Human Error and Major Disasters
Group Dynamics
Positive Reinforcement Motivation
Punitive Motivational Systems
Managing Change
Patterns of Employment
Physical Stressors and Human Reliability

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Element IA7: Human Factors

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Element IA7: Human Factors

In the UK the Human Factors National Advisory Committee (HFNAC), a working group
established by the MoD and DTI to advice on key technologies in aerospace and defence,
defined human factors as:
A professional discipline concerned with improving the integration of human issues into the
analysis, design, development, implementation, and operational use of systems.
Acknowledgement that supporting knowledge is drawn from a variety of specialist areas,

Occupational psychology;


Human physiology;



Engineering (principally IT, mechanical, control and systems engineering); and


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Element IA7: Human Factors

Human Psychology, Sociology

and Behaviour
A good understanding of human factors requires knowledge of the concepts of occupational
psychology, sociology and behaviour.

From the Greek psyche, (mind) and logos (study), the study of the nature and functions of the
mind and of human behaviour. Occupational Psychologists have expertise in identifying and
realising the full potential of people and creating effective organisations.

Sociology is not a subject that is easy to define with any precision.
Sociology is a human science and as such it is distinguished from the so-called physical
sciences. It considers people, humanity, society and culture.
Sociology takes the wider picture into account and seeks to place individuals into the wider
social context as members of social groups, communities and social institutions. It explores
social interaction, examining the informal and formal social relationships engaged in by
individuals. Where psychology studies the human interaction of individuals, sociology studies
the interaction that occurs within and between social groups.
Academic definitions of sociology include:
Sociology may be defined as the study of society; that is the study of the web of human
interactions and relationships. (Ginsberg, 1939).
Sociology is the study of human social life, groups and societies. (Giddens, 1989).
Sociology is the study of individuals in groups in a systematic way. (Lawson and Garrod,

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The Three Spheres of Influence

The HSE (2007) has defined Human Factors as:
The environmental, organisational and job factors, human and individual characteristics which
influence behaviour at work in a way which can affect health and safety.
A simple way to envisage the concept is to consider three spheres of influence: the individual,
the job, the organisation and how they impact on peoples health and safety related behaviour.
Figure 1: Three Spheres of Influence
Figure 1: Three Spheres of Influence

Figure 2: Key Variables Affecting Individual Behaviour




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Element IA7: Human Factors

The Individual
Personal attitudes, skills, habits and personalities may be strengths or weaknesses depending
on job demands.
These characteristics influence behaviour in complex and significant ways. Their effects may
be positive or negative and may not always be mitigated by job design. Some characteristics
such as personality are largely fixed and cannot be easily changed. Others, such as skills and
attitudes, may more readily be changed or enhanced.

The Job
Tasks should be designed in accordance with ergonomic principles to take into account
limitations and strengths in human performance. The job should fit the person, addressing both:

Physical match (i.e. the design of the workplace and working environment); and

Psychological match (i.e. the individuals information and decision-making requirements,

as well as their perception of the tasks and risks).

The risk interface between the individual and the job should be designed to reduce significantly
the potential for human error.

The Organisation
Organisational factors have the greatest influence on individual and group behaviour.
Organisations need to establish a positive health and safety culture, promoting employee
involvement and commitment at all levels, and emphasising that deviation from established
health and safety standards is not acceptable.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The Individual
Individual Differences
Organisations consist of people working together to achieve the organisations goals.
It is the role of management to identify potential and talent within the workforce and to ensure
it is used effectively in pursuit of the organisations goals whilst also ensuring that issues of
individual frustration and conflict do not hinder the overall progress of the organisation.
An understanding of human individuality is therefore essential for managers.
This is difficult, not just because human beings are unique and incredibly complex, but because
those complexities are amplified when individuals function in groups within an organisation,
interacting with those around them.
There are many determinants of human individuality and many ways of characterising those
differences. Consider the following, limited distinctions:
Table 1: Individual Differences
Physical attributes and


Socio-cultural factors


Personality traits

Family background









Socio-economic status

Health state



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Element IA7: Human Factors

Individual Behaviour
How do these variables affect an individuals behaviour in the workplace?
Can they be manipulated by management to obtain the desired behaviour and if so, how?
The key variables affecting individual behaviour are illustrated in the Figure 2.
It is these determinants of behaviour that the following discussion will address.
Figure 2: Key Variables Affecting Individual Behaviour
Figure 2: Key Variables Affecting Individual Behaviour



education and
Ability / Aptitude

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Personality was defined by Eysenck et al as:
The relatively stable organisation of a persons motivational disposition arising from the
interaction between biological drives and the social environment. (it) usually refers ... to the
traits, sentiments, attitudes, complexes and unconscious mechanisms, interests and ideals
which determine mans characteristic or distinctive behaviour and thought. (Fontana 2000).
The key points to take from this definition are that personality is:

Stable: People do not change fundamentally from day to day;

Organised: Systems are related. Personality is formed through a combination of biological

mechanisms and environmental factors (nature and nurture); and

Distinctive: Each personality is unique.

Personality Theories
The key research into personality typing was conducted by Hans Eysenck between the 1960s
and 1980s and Raymond Cattell during the 1970s.
Eysencks original research supported the notion of two distinct aspects of personality
(extroversion and stability) that could be measured on a scale.
Figure 3: Eysencks Two Factor Theory
Figure 3: Eysencks Two Factor Theory





Four main personality types were therefore suggested:

Stable / extrovert;

Unstable / extrovert;

Stable / introvert; and

Figure 4: Components of Attitude

Unstable / introvert.

Eysencks Three Factor Model (1983) added a third key trait (tough mindedness) and defined
(Furnham, 1997).
Feelings and
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Element IA7: Human Factors

Table 2: Eysencks Three Factor Model

Key Trait


Extroversion Activity

Risk taking
Lack of reflection
Lack of responsibility

Emotional Instability

Low self esteem

Lack of autonomy

Tough Mindedness

Achievement orientation
Sensation seeking

Eysencks theories were tested on large test groups and supported two key findings:

Personality is largely inherited and generally unchanged by environmental factors; and

The underlying personality traits correlate closely with expected behaviour.

More recently the traditions of Eysenck have been revitalised and built upon by Costa and
McCrae (1987), who have developed a five factor model The Big 5, defining five basic,
unrelated, aspects of personality that can be measured on a scale.
This model has become a popular tool for psychometric testing in the workplace.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Table 3: Costa and McCraes Big Five Personality Traits




Sensitive and
Prone to upset



Open to



Generally calm


experiences guilt /
anger / sadness

Relaxed even under


Moderately active and



High spirited

Enjoys company but

values privacy



Down to earth

Broad interests

Willing to consider new






Seeks balance


Set in ways




Hard headed



Good natured



Avoids Conflict

Can be stubborn and


Expresses anger

Well organised


Easy going

High personal

Reasonably well


Goal oriented

Works to goals but can

set work aside

Does not make plans

Research applying the Big 5 as determinants of work performance found that:

Conscientiousness is a good predictor of performance; and

Extroversion correlates closely with social interaction and training proficiency.

Recognising the personality traits and the subsequent influence that they may have on behaviour
have since become an important aspect of recruitment to certain roles in the workplace, and from
a safety point of view the role of leaders and followers in groups is a useful tool in influencing
safe behaviour.

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Element IA7: Human Factors





Allport, 1935, defined attitude as:

A mental and neural state of readiness, organised through experience, exerting a directive and
dynamic influence upon the individuals response to all objects and situations with which it is
related. (Malim & Birch, 1998).
Attitudes are evaluative. They reflect an individuals propensity to feel, think, or act in a positive
or negative way towards a particular target, be that a person, an object or a concept.
Figure 4: Components of Attitude
Figure 4: Components of Attitude
Feelings and


Perceptions, beliefs
and memories

Actions or intentions
to act

The traditional, simplistic, understanding of the relationship between attitude and behaviour
was often stated as an ABC model, i.e. The Antecedents of behaviour (of which Attitude is
the principal) prompted a Behaviour, which led to a Consequence and the consequence
subsequently feeding back and modifying the attitude.
Early research into attitude and behaviour failed to prove a direct causal relationship between
attitudes and behaviours.
La Piere studied racist attitudes and behaviours in California in the 1930s.
He visited 250 hotels and restaurants with a Chinese companion and was refused entry only once.
A later questionnaire asking the same establishments if they would accept Chinese guests
elicited a 92% negative response. Clearly there was a generally racist attitude prevalent at the
time, but other factors influenced the actual, overt behaviour.
The relationship between attitude and behaviour was no longer considered to be one of cause
and effect.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Behavioural approaches to safety management offer a more pragmatic solution to the

management of human factors related safety issues in the workplace. Getting staff to behave
safely is one of the biggest challenges facing organisations today and is perceived as the most
difficult to find a solution to. In an attempt to modify behaviour, organisations have historically
relied on traditional safety campaigns based on fear messages or posters depicting dreadful
injuries in the belief that this will result in the desired change in behaviour.
Behavioural approaches focus on directly observed human behaviour, as this is much easier to
measure than attitude. Attitudes are notoriously difficult to change and measure. An example of
this is when a country is having an election it is difficult for the various political parties to win over
their opponents. When carrying out attitude surveys people may not answer the question sets
truthfully. And to use a well worn phrase if you cannot measure it then you cannot manage it.
Behaviour is modified through motivational techniques. As appropriate behaviours are learnt they
are strengthened due to their positive consequences. Inappropriate behaviours are discouraged
through the absence of positive consequences, and where necessary negative consequences.
Research has shown that consequences or pay offs that are certain and immediate and have a
positive result are far more powerful than those which may arrive tomorrow. An example of this
type of approach can be observed in road safety campaigns. In order to reduce road deaths
caused by speeding the police may install static speed cameras which are highly visible to the
motorist. There aim is to modify the drivers behaviour and have them comply with the speed
limit. If the motorist is speeding they will be caught on camera and punished. The chain of
events is almost immediate.
Therefore within the workplace we have to ensure that the payoffs or positives are stronger than
other competing factors such as: deadlines, production targets, efficiency savings etc., and the
changes are permanent. Within the workplace many of the staff will take the easiest route for
them or the line of least resistance in order to complete the task. When staff are challenged on
why they are breaking the rules the most common answer provided is that the safe way takes too
long or they have to walk to end of the workshop to fetch the correct equipment or wearing the
Personal Protective Equipment is uncomfortable. So when staff are exhibiting this approach it is a
strong indication that the consequences are weak and that the payoffs are not certain or positive.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

But not providing appropriate consequences or payoffs in the working environment allows
conditions such as covert triggers to unsafe behaviour to creep in.
The traditional response to this pattern of events has been to increase supervision levels to a
comfortable level for both the company and the staff. This solution has the tendency to remove
the responsibility for health and safety from the staff onto the supervisor. This in turn creates
an adult-child relationship which is undesirable in an industrial environment, where staff fail to
apply intelligent problem solving techniques and shun responsibility. This chain of events will
eventually lead to downward spiral of safety behaviour within the workplace.
Research has shown that when behaviour is changed the underlying attitudes are consequently
modified to fit with the new behaviour.
Research in the 1980s and 1990s (notably Ajzen and Fishbein) criticised much of the work that
had gone before for trying to link general attitudes with specific behaviours.
The theory of reasoned action (1980) and the subsequent theory of planned behaviour (1989)
proposed a different relationship between attitude and behaviour.
Figure 5: Theory of Planned Behaviour (Modified)
Figure 5: Theory of Planned Behaviour (Modified)
Value of expected
outcome of


Subjective norm

Beliefs about, and

motivation to
comply with other

importance of




The theory is complementary to expectancy theories of motivation in that the attitude is

conceived as relating directly to the consequences of behaviour.
Concepts of perceived behaviour control, (i.e. how strongly the individual believes they will
behave in a certain situation, regardless of other factors) are addressed, as is the different
relative importance placed upon subjective norms by each individual.
The theory of planned behaviour has proven successful in predicting behaviour in a wide range
of circumstances though has not yet been widely applied in the occupational context.

Figure 6: Training Methods

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Ability and Aptitude

An individuals abilities and aptitudes may also impact upon behaviour.
Ability is the capacity to perform a particular physical or mental function. Key abilities include
physical strength, manual dexterity, spatial acuity and conceptual thinking.
Abilities may be learned or developed in the workplace, though there is a natural predisposition
towards them.
An aptitude is an inherent predisposition for acquiring or developing an ability.

Learning, Education and Training

Learning is fundamental to the survival of organisations and the individuals that work within
them. In a rapidly evolving international marketplace, with increasing pressures to perform
financially and the use of new technologies to improve efficiency, the pressure is on to adapt or
die. Warr (2002) defined learning as:
cognitive (the process of thought) and physical activities giving rise to relatively permanent
changes in knowledge, skills or attitude.
And training as:
Organised efforts to assist learning through instruction and practice
Training may be job specific improving performance in a current given role, or developmental
which takes a longer term perspective, planning to get the best out of an individual through
following career stages.
Training may take place on the job or off the job.
Formal education may be regarded as formalised learning, leading to recognised academic
awards. Education tends to be theoretical, dealing with first principles, and abstract
understanding of processes and procedures. Whereas training tends to be more practical,
dealing with concrete concepts and hands on skills.

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Element IA7:
Human Factors

Subjective norm

importance of



Operant Conditioning (Skinner, 1938)

Operant (the use of consequences to modify the occurrence and form of behaviour) is concerned
with the voluntary rather than reflexive behaviour. Skinner took the law of effect (behaviour produces
Beliefs about, and
consequences - if a behaviour has a pleasant consequence it is more likely to be repeated) and
motivation to
produced complex behaviour in a series of laboratory tests involving rats and pigeons.
comply with other
Skinners work heavily influenced behavioural approaches to psychology. The later development
of stimulus response psychology - is still influential today.

What can be taken from these theories is that people generally learn to produce positive
outcomes through a process of positive reinforcement, i.e. praising positive actions, such as
the correct wearing of PPE, and condemning unsafe acts has also been shown to have positive
consequences. Punishment (an undesirable response to an unwanted behaviour) however, is
not as effective, as the focus is on weakening the undesired behaviour rather than strengthening
the desired. It can also lead to anger and frustration, which may have the unexpected effect of
strengthening the unwanted behaviour.

Training Methods
In both on the job and off the job training, information is obtained from a combination of listening to
and watching other people, practising the desired behaviour and receiving feedback on performance.
Figure 6: Training Methods
Figure 6: Training Methods


Behaviour Modelling techniques systematically bring together these activities. Following the
identification of learning points, information is presented first verbally, then visually. Learners
are then required to practise the presented activity and receive feedback from tutors and co
learners. Behaviour modelling has been shown to be effective in managerial and computer
training in comparison with more traditional training methods.

Observational Learning
People acquire information and behaviours vicariously through observation.
On the job this may occur informally or through more formalised procedures. Formal systems
of job instruction may give a new starter the opportunity to watch a model practitioner exercise
their skills, followed by a period of monitored practice with constructively critical feedback.
Informally the new worker will also learn of custom and practice and incorporate this into their
own behaviour.

Competency Led Training

The concept of competency is a commonly occurring theme in health and safety legislation and
management. The proper identification of competency based outcome (skills, abilities) leads to
the creation of appropriate training inputs and processes
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Element IA7: Human Factors

What is Motivation?
The term is undoubtedly a familiar one, but nonetheless it has proved difficult to define.
In legal terms the motive is a persons reason for doing something.
Or, as Jim Rohn (a motivational speaker) stated:
When you know what you want, and you want it badly enough, youll find a way of getting it
In mechanics it is the motive force that starts a machine and keeps it running.
Motivation in the work environment is concerned with the forces that stimulate an individual to
act or perform. An organisation can only achieve its stated objectives through the efforts of the
workforce. Effective management requires the alignment of individuals goals with those of the
organisation and the motivation of individuals to achieve their stated objectives.
Table 4: Key Features of Well Motivated and Poorly Motivated Workers
Key Features of a Well Motivated Worker

Key Features of a Poorly Motivated Worker



Energetic / enthusiastic


Performing / delivering

Under Performing / not delivering

Why are people motivated to do anything at all? If people are motivated to do a particular thing,
then why that rather than another?
Two key issues need to be addressed:

What are the forces that will stimulate an individual to act?

How do those forces deliver the necessary direction, effort and persistence of application
to achieve the desired outcome?

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Driving Forces
The driving forces for individuals have been categorised in many ways. Consider the following
Table 5: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Drivers

Internal to the individual

Psychological rewards
Fulfilment of personal needs

(Rewards or expectation of reward)

External to the individual

Within the gift of the organisation
Tangible rewards, e.g. salary, benefits, promotion

Table 6: Physiological Drivers and Social Motives

Physiological Drives

Human beings must eat and drink and fulfil other

basic biological needs to survive

Social Motives

Human beings are social creatures that actively

seek out interaction with others

Motivational Theories
No single theory has ever been able to address the entire range of organisational and individual
differences and provide a one size fits all solution to the issue of motivation in the workplace.
An awareness of the historical development of motivational theories and the principles of the
major theories allows an appreciation of the means of providing a positive working environment
that will facilitate the motivation of staff.
None of the theories discussed are conclusive; all have been criticised and contradicted in
subsequent studies. Collectively though they illustrate the broad range of factors that may
influence an individuals behaviour and provide a framework within which to tackle the issue of

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Figure 7: Motivational Theories

Figure 7: Motivational Theories

Rational / economic models
e.g. Taylor Scientific Management
Money as a motivator
Human relations models
e.g. Elton Mayo
The Hawthorne Experiments


Content Theories
(The What)

Attempt to identify and explain the factors

which energise and motivate people

e.g. Maslow, Alderfer, Herzberg,


Process Theories
(The How)

Other Theories

Focus on how a variety of personal

factors interact to influence human

Includes :

Expectancy models
Equity theories
Goal setting theories

Scientific Management. F. W. Taylor

Taylor was the machine shop manager at the Midvale Steel Company between 1884 and 1886.
Taylor believed that good management should give satisfaction and prosperity to both employer
and employee
8: Levelsand
of that
Needmanagement should promote co-operation instead of antagonism.
During his pig iron experiments, Taylor analysed the loading of 92lb pigs on to rail carts and
convinced he could increase output from 12.5 tons per worker per day to 48 tons.
Self Actualisation Need
5 by selecting a physically strong worker who was highly financially
Taylor began his experiment
motivated, a high priced man.
Esteem Need
By testing various combinations of techniques, procedures and equipment Taylor eventually
determined the best way of doing the job and achieved hisSocial
of 48 tons per worker per day.
The key principles of Taylors work were to:
Safety Needs

Collect, analyse and codify existing craft knowledge;

Plan jobs in detail, eliminating
unnecessary actions
and makingNeeds
allowances for fatigue;

Use scientific rate-fixing to determine the time that a job should take; and

Give workers detailed instructions regarding the days work.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Taylor expected compliance, because his instructions were based on what he considered to be
the law of the one best way.
The approach resulted in dramatic increases in productivity, of up to and over 200%.
The workforce was well rewarded with wages up to double what they were before.
After leaving Midvale, Taylor acted as consultant in the reorganisation of a number of works,
including the very large Bethlehem Steelworks, which he went to in 1898, and conducted his
famous experiments on shovelling.
Taylor was puzzled by the disparity of load handled between the 500 shovellers at the plant and
also by the very wide disparity of load for different materials shovelled.
He found that shovellers were lifting loads of 3 and a half pounds (1.6 kg) when handling small
coal, and up to 38 lb (17 kg) when handling iron ore.
He set out to discover what shovel load and what type of shovel permitted a good shoveller to
shovel most in a day and conducted experiments on shovelling various materials and loads,
using shovels of different sizes and shapes.
He found that a 21 lb (9.8 kg) shovel load was the best, whatever the material being shifted, and
he had shovels made for each material. He then instructed the men in the methods of using the
shovels and organised their daily work well in advance.
As a result, 140 shovellers were able to shift the same amount as the original 500. The firm
saved money at the rate of 78,000 dollars a year (after purchasing new equipment and paying for
additional management time) and the workers were rewarded with wage increases of up to 60%.

It is worth noting that Taylors successes were short lived and he was dismissed from the
Bethlehem Steel Company as a consequence of increasing hostility towards his methods.
Taylor also carried out an extensive series of experiments on the efficient use of machine tools
and on the improvement of cutting tools. His formula relating tool life and cutting speed is still
used today.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Taylor explained his objectives as having been the following:

The development of a science for each element of a mans work;

The election of the best worker for each particular task and then training, teaching and
developing the worker;

The development of a spirit of hearty co-operation between management and the men in
the carrying out the activities in accordance with the principles of the developed science;

The division of the work into almost equal shares between management and the workers,
each department taking over the work for which it is best fitted.

Elton Mayo - The Hawthorne Experiments

George Elton Mayo (1880-1949) was an Australian philosopher, writer and management
researcher who led the Hawthorne experiments. GE funded the National Research Council
(NRC) of the National Academy of Sciences to conduct an impartial study to test the hypothesis
that better workplace lighting improved worker productivity.
The Hawthorne Experiments were a series of five studies into worker productivity conducted at
AT&Ts Western Electric Hawthorne plant in Cicero, Illinois, between 1924 and 1932.
Illumination Studies, 1924-1927
In the initial study two work groups of female employees were selected for control and
experimental groups. By comparing productivity in the experimental group (following lighting
changes) with the production of the control group (no lighting changes) the researchers could
validate and measure the impact of lighting. The study failed to find any simple relationship
as both poor lighting and improved lighting seemed to increase productivity. Indeed, in the
final stage, when the group merely pretended to increase lighting the worker group reported
higher satisfaction. It seemed that increased worker productivity was due to the researchers
interaction with the female employees and, that the workers were trying to please the researchers
by continuing to increase their output and report satisfaction in the study, regardless of the
intervention. The phenomenon of a researcher corrupting an experiment simply by his presence
has since become known as the Hawthorne effect.
Relay Assembly Test Room Experiments, 1927-1929
Five young women from the Relay Assembly room formed a test group. The experiments involved
manipulating various factors, including pay incentives, length of workday and workweek, and
use of rest periods, to measure their impact on productivity and fatigue.
The changes had little effect on productivity, even when the original, more demanding conditions
were re-implemented.
Mica-Splitting Test Group, 1928-1930
The inconclusive evidence of the first two experiments led to a further experiment conducted
using workers in the Mica-Splitting Room. In this experiment the workers piece wages were
held constant while work conditions were varied. Productivity increased by about 15%. The
researchers concluded that productivity was affected by non-pay considerations and postulated
that social dynamics were the basis of worker performance.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Plant-Wide Interview Program, 1928-1931

The data from a plant-wide survey of 21,000 employees suggested that work improved when
supervisors began to pay attention to employees, that work takes place in a social context in
which work and non-work considerations are important. Norms and groups matter to workers.
Bank Wiring Observation Group, 1931-1932
The final experiment involved 14 male workers assigned to the Bank Wiring factory. The
objective was to study the dynamics of the group when incentive pay was introduced.
The finding was that nothing happened! The work group had established a work norm
a shared expectation about how much work should be performed in a day and stuck to it,
regardless of pay.
Table 7: The Hawthorne Experiment
Prejudgements Findings


Safety Culture

Job performance depends on

the individual employee.

The group is the key factor

to the employees job

Being involved in activities

and providing input to

Fatigue is the main factor

affecting output.

Perceived meaning and

importance of the work
determine output.

Daily leadership from

management through
specific activities creating
employee ownership of
process elements.

Management set production


Workplace culture sets its

own production standards.

Top management shows

employees visible
commitment to safety and it
is the driving force.

Adapted from James E Roughton, James J. Mercurio Developing an Effective Safety

Culture Table 7-2 page 123.
The Hawthorne research helped management to understand that although an organisation is
a structured and a formal system that arranges functions, it is by default also a social system.
During the research it was discovered that the General Electric employees reacted to
the psychological and social conditions in the workplace such as informal group pressure,
individual recognition (praise playing part of this process) and participation in the decision
making processes.
Mayos research launched a new human relations based approach to management. The
underpinning principles of which are an acceptance that:

Work is a group activity; more important in determining workers morale and productivity
than the physical conditions under which they work; and

Informal groups within the workplace exercise strong social controls over the attitudes and
behaviours of individual workers.

Another observation arose from this research and is referred to as the Hawthorne effect.
This is where the presence of the researchers effects the results of the research i.e. the cohort
group try their very best to secure results for the sake of the experiment and the researchers.

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Attempt to identify and explain the factors

which energise and motivate people

Human Factors
Focus on how Element
a varietyIA7:
of personal
factors interact to influence human

e.g. Maslow, Alderfer, Herzberg,

Includes :
Hierarchy of Needs (1943)

Expectancy models
Equity theories
Goal setting theories
One of the best known of all the motivational theories is known as Maslows Hierarchy of Needs.

Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who hypothesised that people are wanting beings and
that what they want is arranged hierarchically into five major levels.
Once the needs of a particular level are addressed they no longer function as a motivator and
the individual is able to pursue the next level of need.
Figure 8: Levels of Need
Figure 8: Levels of Need

Self Actualisation Need

Esteem Need

Social Needs

Safety Needs

Physiological Needs

Self-actualisation: The drive to achieve full potential and become fulfilled.


Includes internal factors such as self respect and sense of

achievement and external factors such as status, recognition and


The need to belong to a family unit, to have friends, and belong to



The need to provide a secure shelter, and to be free from harm.


Homeostasis needs the need to breathe, drink, eat and sleep.

It should be noted that Maslow did not intend for his theory to be used as a management tool,
consequently its application in the workplace is not without its difficulties. However understanding
an individuals desire to be accepted in a group or indeed improve their own performance to
enhance their self esteem or reputation are useful management tools in influencing behaviour.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Herzbergs Two Factor Theory (1968)

Herzberg interviewed 203 accountants and engineers. The interviews consistently revealed
two different sets of factors affecting motivation and work.
Hygiene Factors (Maintenance Factors)
Hygiene factors are extrinsic to the job itself and include contextual and environmental factors
such as salary, working conditions, job security, company policies, supervision, working
conditions, interpersonal relationships, status, etc.
The presence of these factors does not motivate individuals as such but their absence will
cause dissatisfaction and demotivation.
(If the hygiene factors are in place the worker is at zero on the notional motivational scale.
If they are absent the worker is on the negative scale. Other factors are required to positively
motivate staff).
Motivators (Growth Factors)
Motivating factors are intrinsic to the job and are concerned with content and meaning e.g.
recognition, achievement, responsibility, interest in, and responsibility for a task, advancement, etc.

McClellands Achievement Needs Theory (1961)

McClellands work also focused directly on motivation in the workplace. McClelland studied the
motivation of entrepreneurs compared with government employees to identify the difference in
commercial risk taking and success. He suggested that entrepreneurs / achievement motivated
people have certain characteristics:

The capacity to set high, but achievable, personal goals;

Concern for personal success rather than rewards; and

A desire for a job feedback (how well am I doing?) rather than for attitudinal feedback (how
well do you like me?).

McClelland identified three areas of motivation for workers, namely:


Affiliation; and


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Element IA7: Human Factors

Table 8: Comparison of Content Theories









Hygiene Factors

McGregors Theory X and Theory Y

Douglas McGregor is credited with the X and Y theory of human motivation while conducting
research work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) School of management in the
1960s. During his research McGregor described that one of the key challenges in allowing the
staff to be selfactualised ( as in the Maslow model), lay in how far the management trusted the
workforce . His simplistic model X and Y assumes that people fall into two groups. Those who
are motivated by reward to work and those who have to be driven by oppressive management
techniques to work.
McGregor proposed two polar extreme categories of human beings at work.
Table 9: Two Polar Extreme Categories of Human Beings at Work
Theory X (Negative)

Theory Y (Positive)

Employees dislike work and will attempt to

avoid it

Employees view work as a natural part of life,

like rest and play

Employees must be controlled or coerced

to achieve desired outcomes

Employees committed to their objectives will

exercise self direction and self control

Employees will shirk responsibility and

seek direction wherever possible

Employees can

Employees value security above all else

and have little ambition

Employees may be as creative and able to

make good decisions as managers





Theory X, employees are motivated by low level needs, whereas theory Y employees have high
order needs.
McGregor believed that theory Y assumptions were more valid than theory X, but that either
may be appropriate in a given situation.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Simply speaking perception is how we understand things. It is the process by which we organise
and make sense of sensory input into the brain. Basically the person behaves according to
the facts as they seem to them. This is based on their own experiences, personal values and
interests. An example of this within the workplace might be when a new employee starts and his
new colleagues may inform him that his manager is a good and friendly manager where theirs
is a poor and unhelpful manager. This will change the perception of the employee towards the
two managers. One whom he thinks is good and the other who is perceived as bad.
Perception is the third stage of a three stage process, which is illustrated in the following figure.
Figure 9: The Process of Perception
Figure 9: The Process of Perception
The initial registration
by the senses to
external stimuli

A selection or
filtering process

The processing and
modification of sensory
data into useful

The brain receives information from sensory receptors, which are specialised to receive different
types of stimuli. Several senses may be stimulated simultaneously.
Whatever type of stimulus is received the information is translated into electrical, neural
can and
be transmitted
to the brain.
Figure 10:
Hale System
of neurons
Human Behaviour
Table 10: Sensory Receptors
The retina (eye)

Light entering
the eye is interpreted in terms of brightness
by rod cells, and colour by cone cells

The cochlea (ear)

Responds to sound waves transmitted through the ear

Detects amplitude (loudness) and frequency (pitch)

The olfactory epithelium

to chemicals carried
in norms
the air, interpreted
as smell.
It ability
is not known howMotivation
many types of olfactory
receptors there are

Taste buds (mouth & tongue)

Chemicals dissolved in saliva are detected as sweet,

sour, bitter or salty tastes
Different receptors for pressure,benefit
temperature and pain
are present in various concentrations throughout the skin

Tactile receptors (thedefects

(the body)
(the inner ear)


Over learning,
fatigue, stress,
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Respond to information from within the body about the

position of muscles and limbs
Cost / Benefit
balance receptors andDecision
kinaesthetic receptorsAction
which respond to information about movement

Desired goal
and plans to
reach it

estimate of risk
and effort



Page 28

Element IA7: Human Factors

Sensory defects will clearly affect the quality of the input data into the process, and hence effect
the ultimate perception of that data.
All of the senses are prone to defects which may be genetic (e.g. colour-blindness); due to
ageing (e.g. presbycusis age related hearing loss); as a consequence of exposure to physical
hazards (e.g. vibration white finger (VWF) will reduce the sensitivity of the tactile receptors in
the fingertips); or due to illness (e.g. a cold will affect the sense of smell).

Attention mechanisms exist to enable human beings to select and process sensory stimuli
which are valuable or of interest, and allows us to ignore the rest.
Attention has been studied since the earliest years of psychology. As long ago as 1890 William
James stated:
Everyone knows what attention is. It is the taking possession by the mind, in clear
and vivid form, of one of what seems several stimulus objects, or trains of thought...
(Miell et al).
Researchers have considered numerous aspects of attention. Here we will address three:

Sustained attention (vigilance);

Selective attention; and

Divided attention.

Sustained Attention (Vigilance)

In the 1950s Mackworth investigated how long an individual could perform a repetitive task
while maintaining a level of focused attention. Typically the research participants started off
accurately but made an increasing number of mistakes with the passing of time. The longer the
task continued the less effectively it was performed.
Mackworth termed the phenomenon performance decrement and explored factors that would
reduce the effect.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Table 11: Performance Decrement

Factor / Agent

Decrement reduced by:

Task Factors:
Signal intensity

Brighter signals

Signal duration

Longer signals

Spatial probability

Signal positioned in display centre

Individual factors:
Performance feedback

Positive or negative feedback

Stimulant drugs

Moderate doses of amphetamines

Personality scores

High introversion (Eysenck)

Situational factors:
Background noise

Moderate disturbance (e.g. telephones)

Social surroundings

Presence of others especially managers

Selective Attention
Research into how people select and react to relevant stimuli became topical during World
War 2, as a consequence of the technological developments of the time, radar operators and
pilots proved useful experimental subjects.
Radar operators need to focus on monotonous displays for long periods of time and pilots need
to quickly select critical information from the mass of data presented in the cockpit.
From the 1950s onwards various researchers tackled the issue of selective attention. Just how
is it that people focus on one stimulus amongst many stimuli?
Researchers have identified several aspects of filtration, notably:

Physical characteristics of the stimuli;

Meaning; and


Divided Attention
Allpart et al (1970s) suggested several different mechanisms exist for processing information.
Interference is experienced when humans try to attend to more than one thing because the
tasks are using the same sensory processing mechanisms.
If the tasks are essentially different, the processing mechanisms will be different and problems
of interference are not experienced.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Sensory Perception
The first stage in interpreting sensory information is to organise it. The sensations must be
structured into meaningful units that effectively represent the world around us.
Visual perception has been studied in much greater detail than perception of other sensory
data, and so visual perception will be used here to illustrate the key features.
In addition to experiencing colours and degrees of brightness, visual perception enables
humans to pick out objects of interest from their backgrounds, to perceive distance and depth,
and sense motion.
The primary means of organising information is through pattern recognition. As long ago as the
1930s the Gestalt psychologists identified a set of four principles (laws of pragnanz) to explain
how we perceive objects and figures.
1. Principle of Similarity.
In the absence of any other Gestalt law, objects that seem to belong together will be
grouped together.
2. Principle of Proximity.

Stimuli close to each other will be seen as forming a group even if they are dissimilar.
3. Principle of Closure.
Closed figures are preferred to fragmented and disjointed lines. Humans fill in the gaps to
see the complete object.
4. Principle of Good Gestalt.
Symmetrical and well rounded figures are preferable to less structured forms.

Pattern Recognition
Pattern recognition enables us to see not just simple objects or shapes but to determine
regularities and patterns. This is the process that enables us to read fluently, for example.
Many researchers have postulated that pattern recognition is the basis of coherent perception.
The two major models of pattern recognition are:

Template matching theory; and

Distinctive features approach.

Template matching theory suggests that we have templates stored in our memory for any given
pattern or shape. When we look at a new object we try to match it with an existing template as
an indication of what the pattern represents.
Distinctive features approaches have formed the basis of much research into pattern perception.
The approach suggests that the whole form of the pattern is less significant than crucial features
which always occur in the target character regardless of other variables.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Perceptual Set
Thought processes can be prepared for action and put into a state of readiness. This is known
as set and it enables an individual to anticipate what is coming and act accordingly.
Perception can be set by various factors including the individuals attitudes and prejudices,
emotional state, and motivation.
The most significant factor though is expectation.

In the 1950s James Bruner illustrated how strongly expectation could influence perception in a
simple study showing people either numbers or letters, in a series, one at a time. An ambiguous
figure that could be seen as a 13 or a B was then shown. Without exception those that had been
shown a series of numbers saw it as 13, whereas those who had viewed the letters saw a B.
A stereotype is an expectation about an individual.
Stereotypes are generalised beliefs about the characteristics, attributes, or behaviours of
members of certain groups.
Social identity theory suggests that, as individuals, we need to map out our social world and
define our identity in the context of group membership, upholding the values of our group
relative to others. Thus stereotypes are formed.
Groups can be defined by a broad range of criteria, notably age, sex, race, religion, politics and
Stereotypes tend to be more focused, relating to specific sub-groups rather than broad general
Examples of stereotypes held in the workplace may be:

Managers just pay lip service to health and safety, they are clearly more concerned with
production; and

Safety Representatives are not really interested in health and safety they just use it as a
means of gaining political advantages over management.

Stereotypes are based upon comparisons of average or typical characteristics in one group
against another.
The validity of a stereotype is questionable on a number of grounds:

They may be based upon very limited information; and

They make no allowance for individuals whose characteristics may be very different to the
group average.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Risk Perception
In the UK, the HSE commissioned the Health and Safety Laboratories to review the literature on
risk perception and risk communication and the findings were published in 1999.
The review identified eight distinct themes within the literature; these are listed and discussed

Perceived control;

Psychological time and risk;


Perception of vulnerability;

Framing effects;

Numerical representations of risk;

Perceptions of hazardous substances; and

Risky situation or risky individual.

Perceived Control
The extent to which exposure to a given risk is perceived to be under the control of the individual
has been shown to be a key factor in determining acceptability of risk.

Psychological Time and Risk

A delay between exposure to a risk and the onset of negative consequences has been shown
to reduce levels of caution in comparison to exposure to a similar level of risk with a more
immediately adverse effect.

Research has tended to substantiate the old adage familiarity breeds contempt. There is a
general tendency for people to underestimate familiar risks and overestimate those they are
unfamiliar with.

Perceptions of Vulnerability
The perception of vulnerability to the consequences of exposure to a given hazard has been
shown to motivate individuals to modify their behaviour. Conversely, an individual with the
perception of low vulnerability or invulnerability (to the consequences of smoking, drink driving,
sexual activity, etc.) are not likely to modify their behaviour.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Framing Effects
The way risk based data is presented (or framed) has been shown to introduce significant
contextual biases. Simply changing the textual description of a risk from positive to negative (i.e.
talk about costs rather than benefits or losses rather than gains) will have a measurable effect
on observed behaviour. Where decision options are framed as losses people tend towards risk
seeking behaviour; where information is expressed as gains people become more risk averse.

Numerical Representations of Risk

Numerical evidence shows that many people experience difficulty in understanding
and interpreting statistical probabilities, thus the need to introduce additional qualitative
characteristics to enable conceptualism of risk has been accepted. Many researchers now use
qualitative type scales requiring classification of risk through expressions such as extremely
likely to extremely unlikely for probability of occurrence and very slight to very serious for
consequences. There is further evidence to show that people struggle to conceptualise the
cumulative effects of repeated exposure. It appears that people perceive each risk act as a
discrete event, rather than accepting that a pattern of risky behaviour has a consequential
increase in the likelihood of injury or illness.

Perception of Hazardous Substances

Psychometric studies (the measurement of knowledge, ability and personal traits) by Slovic et
al and Tischoff et al found that chemicals tended to score fairly highly on the dread dimension
(e.g. lack of control, seriousness of consequences) and unknown dimension (non-observable,
delayed consequences) leading to a heightened perception of risk. Workplace studies have
shown workers to perceive the risk associated with water based pesticides to be lower than
solvent based. The reasoning appears to relate to the perception that water is natural, and inert
and lower risk than solvent. This of course does not consider the risk of the pesticide itself.

Risky Situation or Risky Individual

The relative importance of the situation versus the individual in risk taking behaviour is a
significant topic of debate.
Extremist views are held at either end of the spectrum, however many have accepted the sense
in the holistic view considering how individual differences and situational factors interact in
evoking risk taking behaviours.
Individuals have identified links between maturity and personality types and risk taking
Theories of risk compensation and risk homeostasis postulate that:
We all come equipped with risk thermostats, and suggests that safety interventions
that do not affect the setting of the thermostat are likely to be frustrated by behavioural
responses that reassert the level of risk with which people were originally content.
(Adams, 1995 in Knowles, 2002).
The situationalist stance accepts the contribution of individual characteristics to risk taking
behaviour but considers them relatively unimportant in the context of more pressing situational

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The initial registration
by the senses to
external stimuli

A selection or
filtering process

The processing and
of sensory
IA7: Human
data into useful

Hale and Hale Systems Model of

Human Behaviour
Figure 10: Hale and Hale System Model of Human Behaviour

Figure 10: Hale and Hale System Model of Human Behaviour



Incorrect /

Innate ability

Group norms






Cost / Benefit

Over learning,
fatigue, stress,

Desired goal
and plans to
reach it

estimate of risk
and effort







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Element IA7: Human Factors

Problem Solving
Most day to day activities involve problem solving. Problems can be conceptualised in three
1. The original situation
This is what makes a person aware of the existence of the problem, e.g. an accident
draws their attention to an inadequate guard.
2. The goal situation
This is the solution to the problem, i.e. a suitably designed and constructed guard that will
prevent a similar future occurrence.
3. The rules
In this example the solution must be achieved with a budget, must be delivered on time,
and must be legally compliant. (Malim and Birch, 1998).
Before a problem can be solved it must be understood, and be able to be represented.
To understand a problem a mental model is created, checking against background knowledge,
and ensuring that the problem is coherent (makes sense).
Once the problem has been understood, various models are used to represent it.
This allows easier manipulation of the problem data. Examples would include the use of symbols
(algebraic formulae) or the use of hierarchical trees (fault tree).
The next stage is to search for a solution to a problem. This may involve the use of: random
search strategies, i.e. trial and error; and / or heuristic search strategies, which use rules of
thumb to eliminate areas of concern and narrow down the search to a more manageable size.

Mental Set and Problem Solving

If the problem solvers mind is set into a preconceived assumption about an element of the
problem, a satisfactory solution is unlikely. Three main types of set may interfere with the ability
to solve problems.

Operational Set
An assumption that the problem must be solved by a particular operation or a group of operations.

Functional Set
An assumption that the elements of a problem have a fixed function.

The Rule Set

An assumption that the problem must be solved within the constraints of certain rules.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Decision Making
Decision making is distinguished from problem solving in it is not about finding a solution, it is
about choosing between alternative courses of action.
The process of decision making can be represented in four stages (Bridger, 1995).
Table 12: Process of Decision Making
Acquiring Information

Determination of the alternatives available

for selection

Evaluating Alternatives

Application of criteria for selection or

deselection of alternatives


Deciding to implement
alternative, or not


This is essential to learning and improving

decision making skills



When making decisions, heuristics (rules of thumb) are applied. This approach works well in
most contexts, but when a heuristic is misapplied the consequence is human error.
There are four main heuristics which are applied to decision making:



Anchoring; and

Decision framing. (Hayes, 2000).

Judgements are often made on the basis that their given example is typical, or representative of
a whole. This is particularly relevant when making judgements based on probabilities.

Some sources of information come more readily to mind than others and are more likely to
influence our decisions.
Dramatic visual images have much more of an impact on thinking and memory than dry
statistical information.

When making a quantitative estimate the first figure given becomes an anchor and all further
estimates tend to develop from, and relate back to it.

Decision Framing
As seen in discussions on risk perception the way information is presented (e.g. as positive or
negative, or in terms of loss or gain) will have a significant influence on the outcome.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Human Failure
Any incorrect action by an individual is termed human failure and is traditionally regarded as
the individuals fault.
In fact the fallibility of individuals is almost entirely predictable. Failure to consider the human
limitations of people to perceive, cope with, remember, process and act on information is
expecting too much of people.

Human Failure and Accidents

The more a system relies on human intervention the more foolproof it should be, but bear
in mind that experience has shown that nothing is foolproof to someone determined enough
to override the controls. Conversely, well-trained and motivated personnel can spot potential
incidents and prevent them.
Human failures can be expressed as active or latent failures.

Active Failures
These have an immediate consequence and are usually attributed to front line staff, e.g. drivers,
pilots and control room personnel (the concept of direct causes in accident causation theory).

Latent Failures
These are the indirect or root causes of accidents and are often attributed to failures by
designers, decision makers and managers. These are often hidden and may only come to light
as an accident investigation unfolds. Latent failures can include:

Poor design;

Lack of training;

Lack of supervision; and

Uncertainty on roles and responsibility.

In addition to the classification of failures as active or latent they can also be classified by intent.
HSG 48 defines intentional failures, or departures from the rules as violations, and unintentional
failures as errors.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Skill Based






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Element IA7: Human Factors

Action or decision, which is not intended, which involved a departure from accepted standards
and led to an adverse outcome.
Classes of error include:

Skill Based
Slips and lapses may occur when conducting very familiar tasks where there is normally little
need to pay conscious attention. Driving a car is a good example of a typical skill based task,
which is very prone to error, with potentially grave consequences should attention be diverted.
Slips failure to carry out actions of a task, or actions not as planned:

Performing an action too early or too late in a procedure;

Omitting steps or a series of steps from a procedure;

Turning a control knob in the wrong direction;

Doing the right thing on the wrong object; and

Reading the wrong dial.

Lapses people forget to carry out or complete an action or even forget what they set out to
do. These are most common when there is a long period of waiting or tasks take a long time to
Mistakes more complex failures where the wrong thing is done, but the person believes that
the correct action has been taken.

Rule Based
Behaviour is based on remembered rules or familiar procedures, often without checking for
changes. There is a strong tendency to revert to these rules or solutions even when not always
the most efficient.

Knowledge Based
When in unfamiliar circumstances, or circumstances that may feel familiar, but unknown, there
is tendency to apply first principles (rules) or to try to match it with a situation which resembles a
familiar one, i.e. one that they are knowledgeable of. Experienced and knowledgeable personnel
without complete information on the hazards and risks are susceptible to this type of mistake.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Violations are deliberate departures from procedures or rules, or in common terms breaking
the rules.
Violations fall into three distinct categories:

Breaking the rules has become the normal way of working. Causes can include:

The desire to cut corners and save energy;

Perception that the rules are too restrictive or no longer apply;

Lack of supervision or enforcement; or

New workers being taught bad habits then believing them to be correct.

Breaking the rules due to the pressure of the job. Reasons may include:

Time pressure;

Insufficient staff for the workload;

Equipment not available; or

Extreme weather conditions.

These are rare, and happen when something has gone wrong and the decision making is to try
to put things right, even if this means taking risks that are known to be inappropriate.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Rasmussens SRK Taxonomy

Jens Rasmussen developed his SRK (Skills, Rules, Knowledge) taxonomy of human errors
in the 1970s through research into verbal protocols used by operators in the nuclear industry.
Rasmussen assumed human beings to be rule following organisms that make use of mental
models to solve problems and perform tasks.
Rasmussen classified human errors according to occurrence at the skill based, rule based, or
knowledge based level of performance.
The theory is based upon the operators degree of familiarity with the task:

Unfamiliar tasks are of the knowledge based level;

Tasks which are familiar, but not automatic are of the rule based level; and

Tasks which the operator is extremely familiar with are undertaken at the skill-based level.

All skills to complete tasks begin at the knowledge base level, progressing to rule based as
familiarity increases and skill based when the task is known inside-out.
Rasmussen made the following observation about behaviour at each level.
Skill Based Behaviour:

Operator is fully conversant with the task;

Behaviour is automatic, using dynamic mental models; and

Errors are not true errors, but mismatches between the operator and environment.

Rule based behaviour:

Internal rules, developed by the operator;

Operator breaks activities into steps and follows one after another; and

Operator digitally processes information using algorithmic rules of an if then type.

Knowledge based behaviour:

Operator uses intelligent problem solving techniques to create a rule from first principles,
then tests it either empirically or theoretically; and

As this is an energy intensive state, the operator will revert to rule based or skill based
behaviour as soon as possible.

Understanding the level at which an individual is operating at any point in time can be difficult as
skill levels improve gradually with practice. The point at which one moves on from knowledge
based behaviour to rule based, or rule based to skill based is rarely clear.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Whittingham (2004) defined the key criteria for each behaviour type as per the following table:
Table 13: SRK Criteria (Whittingham)

Type of



















Not available

Once an operators behaviour, and means of processing information, at each level is understood it
is relatively straightforward to understand the likely reasons for human failure and the corresponding
strategies for preventing or reducing the likelihood of failure, see the following table.
Table 14: Human Failure Prevention Strategies
Operating Level

Reasons for human failure

Prevention strategies


Trial and error

Training opportunity to practice


Lack of knowledge of system


Lack of expertise

Mentoring / support
Peer review


Application of incorrect rule set

Clear presentation of information


Misapplication of correct rule set

Logical rule sets

(strong but wrong good rules

proven in similar circumstances but
critical difference not recognised)

Evaluation of competence
Appropriate supervision


Slips (actions not as planned)

lack of attention as mind drifts
due to boredom / routine or due to

Designing distinct routines to avoid


Lapses procedure recommenced

at wrong point in sequence
following distraction

Feedback signals designed grab

and/or hold attention

Rest breaks

Training / supervision / competence

Rasmussens research formed a platform for later theories such as James Reasons Generic
Error Modelling System (GEMS) and The Human Failure Model from HSG48.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Hale And Glendons Behaviour In The

Face Of Danger Model (1987)
Hale and Glendons model amalgamates Rasmussens concepts of skill, rule and knowledge
based functioning with Hale and Hales systems approach.
Danger is always present in the workplace. Workers rarely have to react in practice; however
an effective reaction is vital to manage the danger. In this model it is the responsibility of the
individual to control the level of danger. For active failures the individual has two key areas of
responsibility: firstly he must avoid personal errors that will increase danger; secondly he must
be able to detect and avoid, or recover from, other sources of danger.
For latent failures, individuals, e.g. designers, safety advisers, people involved in hazard
identification, policy makers, emergency planners, etc. must actively contemplate danger in
to 12:
or mitigate
Hale and
In The Face of Danger
Figure 12: Hale and Glendon Behaviour In The Face of Danger
Level of


System Mode


Tests for
danger known
and carried out

Need for action


accepted or


Plan made and

carried out?

Hazard seeking




known and


Programmed or
warning signals


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Response in
and carried out

Danger brought
(or stays) under

Page 44

System Boundary



Element IA7: Human Factors

Human Error and Major Disasters

It is helpful when considering the impact of human failures to understand the contribution made
to major disasters, such as:



Three-mile Island;



Piper Alpha; and

Texas City.

See Disaster Summaries for more information.

As well as identifying specific human errors (i.e. slips and lapses, and rule and knowledge
based mistakes), an understanding of the disasters will allow the safety professional to identify:

Active and latent failures (direct and indirect causes);

Violations; and

Broader human factors (the influence of the job, the individual and the organisation).

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The Organisation
In this section we will briefly examine three issues:

Group Dynamics the effect of norms and peer group pressure;

Conflict; and


Group Dynamics
As already discussed, human beings are largely social creatures, who form and join groups for
a variety of reasons, including security, social needs, goal achievement, shared interests and
In the work place few people work alone; tasks are normally allocated to teams, sections or
Group dynamics, or the psychological processes that occur within groups, have a significant
influence over the behaviour of individual group members and also on the efficiency of the
organisation as a whole (Furnham 1997).

Group Development
Tuckman (1965) described the process of group development as a series of stages known as
forming, storming, norming, and performing.
The model has its shortcomings in that it is not clear how long each stage is likely to last, nor
what will prompt an evolution to the next stage of development. However it is still regarded as
a useful predictor of group development. (Furnham, 1997).

Members are focused on defining goals and developing procedures. Group roles and leadership
will be established. Members are not yet committed to the group or clear of their role within it.

Conflicts emerge regarding priorities and competition arises over the leadership role.

Co-operation and a sense of shared responsibilities are key themes. Information is shared,
different opinions are incorporated and mutually agreeable (compromise) solutions are sought.

The group performs its tasks effectively and efficiently. Roles are accepted and understood.
Not all groups will perform effectively. Good groups continue to learn and develop in light of

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Group Roles
Within any work group, or team, there will be task specialists (those focused on achieving
the groups goals) and social / emotional specialists (those concerned with making the social
relationships run smoothly).
Eight team roles were identified by Belbin in 1981 (Hayes 2000).
Table 15: Team Roles

Clarifies goals, allocates tasks, establishes conclusions


Pushes group towards agreements


Advances proposals and makes suggestions

Monitor / Evaluator

Analyses problems and assesses individual contributions


Transforms intention into action. Does the practical work

Team Worker

Gives support and assistance

Resource Investigator

Negotiates with outsiders to locate resources


Focussed on meeting schedules and relevant deadlines

Group Norms
Group norms are unspoken rules that develop over time, establishing acceptable and
unacceptable practice and determining how group members are to behave.
Group norms establish the central values of the group and determine the framework for
acceptable social behaviour and establish the groups identity.
Group dynamics is an area of social psychology that has been extensively researched
throughout the 20th Century.
Some of this research provides particularly useful insights into the behaviour of groups, and
individual group members within the workplace, that is relevant to the management of Health
and Safety.

Conformity and Compliance

Once a group norm has been established there is a tendency for group members to conform to
the norm, as a result of social or peer pressure.
Compliance is slightly different in that it relates to a response to a direct request. Individuals will
comply with requests without modifying their personal attitudes and beliefs.
Consider a work group who will establish norm regarding the wearing of personal protective
equipment. Each group member, and each member joining the group, will tend to be driven to
conform to the group norm and comply with the will of the group.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Leaders and Followers

In any group, in any context, there will be leaders and followers. An individual becomes a leader
regardless of any power held because of position in the hierarchical structure.
The following three key variables have been identified:

Leaders have been found to be above average in terms of size, health, attractiveness,
intelligence, confidence, talkativeness, and a need to dominate.

Situational Factors
A given situation may require specific leadership skills, and an individual may take the lead
because of practical experience or knowledge of the problem being faced. Task oriented
leadership skills then come to the fore. Other situations may require greater social emotional
leadership skills.

Behavioural / Style Factors

Leadership styles tend to be:

Autocratic with a focus on goal achievements;

Democratic with a participative / co-operative approach; or

Laissez-faire with the group members largely let to get on with things.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Power and Obedience

Where there is power, be it from position within the hierarchy, or from natural leadership
qualities, there is pressure to comply.
Consider the Nuremberg trials after World War II, a common defence was only following orders.
The Milgram Experiments (1963) recruited 40 men to participate in a series of educational
trials. As a consequence of a series of deceptions, each recruit found themselves in the role of
teacher with the instruction to administer an electric shock to a learner every time they got an
answer wrong.
The voltage was increased in 15 volt increments following each wrong answer (the scale being
from 15 volts to 450 volts). The learner, of course, was an actor pretending to receive the
shocks administered.
At 300 volts the learner was banging on the wall in pain and refusing to answer any more
The experimenter instructed the teacher to regard a refusal to answer as a wrong answer and
continue to increase the voltage.
Of the forty participant teachers:

5 refused to continue with 300 volts;

26 (65%) continued until 450 volts; and

14 backed out before the end.

Milgram concluded that obedience to instruction was an extremely powerful societal force in
influencing behaviour. (Malim and Birch, 1998) (Hayes, 2000).

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Group Decision Making

Group made decisions and the processes of decision making will be greatly influenced by the
dynamic of the group.
Research has identified several interesting concepts.

Social Loafing
Most of the time people work harder in a group than they do as individuals, however where an
individual expects the other group members to be able to resolve the issue there is a tendency
for them to ease off and take a back seat. This is the phenomenon of social loafing.

Group Memory
The whole is greater than the sum of the component parts. A group has better memory recall
than the individual member with the best memory.

Group Think
When people work in a cohesive group they are influenced by pressures to conform and comply.
Situations may arise when the group become overly focused on agreement and unanimous
decision at the expense of a realistic solution to the problem at hand.

Group Polarisation
Research by Stoner in the 1960s identified that group decisions were riskier than ones taken
by individuals.
The finding was identified as risky shift. Subsequent research has shown that shifts within
group discussion need not necessarily be in the direction of greater risk but could lead to an
overly conservative decision. Again these polarised views have been explained in the contexts
of the normative and informational influences of the group.

Crowd Behaviour
Commentary on crowd behaviour during the French revolution noted that:
The crowd is always intellectually inferior to the isolated individual. Mob man is fickle,
credulous and intolerant, showing the violence and veracity of primitive beings.
(Marlim and Birch, 1998).
The primal behaviour of crowds has been contributed to 3 factors:

Anonymity: Referred to as de-individuation in more recent research. Individuals in a

crowd cannot be easily identified. With the loss of individuality comes a loss of personal

Contagion: The ideas and emotions within the crowd spread like wild fire; and

Suggestibility: The savagery of man lies just below the surface, and can be released by

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Positive Reinforcement Motivation

Positive reinforcement for diligent employees is a critical aspect of fulfilling the higher order needs
of workers who crave self-esteem, respect and a sense of achievement. Positive reinforcements
provide a doubly valuable impact, and can also be applied to the fulfillment of more basic needs.
When employees see that exceptional individuals are rewarded, many are themselves inspired
towards better workplace efficiency in the hopes of being rewarded themselves, making positive
reinforcement a helpful tool in workplace motivation. Job satisfaction and appraisal schemes all
contribute to positive reinforcement by giving direct feedback to staff.

Punitive Motivational Systems

In order to create the most effective employee motivational system, a balance needs to be
struck between positive reinforcement and punitive measures towards employees who have
a negative impact upon the organisation. When initiating a punitive motivational system,
it is important to avoid creating an overly competitive workplace, which uses the positive
reinforcement given to the best employees as an excuse for constantly raising the bar to the
point where some employees begin to feel a lack of confidence and inadequacy. This can then
be attributed to employee dissatisfaction as outlined in the Two Factor Theory. Using a punitive
motivational system should be reserved for behavioral issues such as frequent tardiness or
disrespectful interpersonal behavior.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Conflict, disagreements and opposition are an inevitable consequence of interactions between
individuals, groups and organisations.
The traditional view of conflict in the workplace is that it is destructive and irrational and
should be avoided; other views suggest that conflict may be desirable and positively influence
Groups that are overly harmonious and co-operative may become apathetic and unresponsive
to information.
Figure 13: The Conflict Process
Figure 13: The Conflict Process





Felt conflict




The conflict process can be broadly defined in four stages: potential opposition, realisation,
behaviour and outcomes with feedback loops from each stage.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Stage 1: Potential Opposition

The antecedent conditions of conflict may be considered as necessary causes. They may not be
sufficient on their own to lead directly to conflict but will inevitably be present when conflict occurs.
Poor communication impedes effective co-operation and promotes misunderstanding.
Communication breakdowns are both a cause and effect of organisational conflict.
Structural issues such as formality (mechanistic: organic), size, specialisation and degree
of interdependence between groups are all potential sources of conflict, especially in light of
significant changes to the organisation.
Poorly performing organisations may suffer from scarcity of resources and concerns of
redundancy or take over.
Personality variables may lead to serious clashes between individuals. Inter-group tension and
conflict has been shown to develop because of:

Perceived inequity of effort between mutually dependant tasks;

Imbalances in dependency. One group is more reliant on another;

Different criteria for evaluating performance;

Environmental variations leading to perceived advantages / disadvantages; or

Inequitable use of shared resource.

Stage 2: Realisation
The frustration arising at Stage 1 only develops into conflict when the parties involved are
aware of the potential conflict.
A disagreement in itself may not lead to any changes in behaviour between the parties.
However, should an individual become emotionally involved and experience hostility or anxiety
the conflict is realised.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Stage 3: Behaviour
Overt conflict may lead to a broad range of behaviours from subtle, controlled attempts to
frustrate the other party to full-on direct action which may be aggressive or violent and

Conflict Handling Behaviours

Most conflict handling behaviours are initiated at Stage 3 (though they may also occur at Stage
2 and 4). Conflict handling behaviours may be evaluated in two dimensions; co-operativeness
(focused on satisfying the other parties concerns) and assertiveness (focused on satisfying
own concerns). This leads to five potential orientations to conflict handling:
14: Conflict
14: Conflict







Non co-operative



(Thomas, in Furnham, 1997).

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Each party gives up something and shares in a compromised outcome with no winners or

One party seeks to dominate the other to achieve their own goals. Commonly occurs where a
superior uses formal authority to dominate a subordinate. Resolution can be viewed as win /

Each party seeks to satisfy the concern of all parties and co-operates to achieve a mutually
beneficial outcome (win / win).

One party withdraws from, or suppresses the conflict. Rather than openly disagreeing, the party
retreats to their own territory and defends it.

One party may be willing to appease the other by placing their interests above their own. This
is not necessarily a sign of weakness but may be a tactical manoeuvre losing a battle but still
intent on winning the war.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Stage 4: Outcomes
The outcomes of conflict may be positive (functional) or negative (dysfunctional). It is the role
of the manager to ensure the organisation reaps any benefits that occur and minimises the
consequences of any negative outcomes.
Table 16: Positive and Negative Outcomes of Conflict


Emergence of talent

Waste of time and effort

Satisfaction of needs


Innovative problem solving


Relief of boredom

Emotional (including
physical damage

Re-establishment of good relations

Financial costs



Managing Change
Organisational change is a normal and inevitable part of business life in all sectors.
Many forms of organisational change can affect management of health and safety hazards,

Changes to roles and responsibilities;

Organisational structure;

Staffing levels;

Staff disposition; or

Any other change that may directly or indirectly affect the control of the hazard.

A petroleum fire at the Tosco Avon Refinery in Martinez, California in February 1999 killed four
workers and injured 46 others. It was caused by poor maintenance practices when working on
a pipe containing naphtha, without proper isolation.
One of the findings of the investigation into the incident was that:Organisational changes were not reviewed by management to evaluate their potential impact
on safety. We were told that following certain organisational changes, employees were asked
to take on new safety responsibilities with only limited training. Many employees perceived that
organisational changes had a detrimental effect on morale and safety performance.
Two years previously an explosion at the same refinery killed one and injured 46. The federal
report into the first accident highlighted similar significant management failings.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

An overview of potential problems and solutions is given in the following table.

Table 17: Organisational Change An Overview of Problems and Solutions
Possible Results of
Organisational Change

Potential Problems

Suggested Solutions

In general, the problems

likely to arise are increased
risk because the new
organisation has:

Overload personnel are

given more or different types
of tasks.

Consult with the workforce

and develop ideas jointly.

A smaller overall

Smaller teams doing the

same work;

Fewer layers of
supervision and

More automated plant;


Increased reliance on

The need for multi-skilledor

more flexible workers will
require additional training.
Teams may need to be selfmanaged and require new
skills and self discipline
Reporting lines may be
unclear with instructions
received from several
New skills will be required
for automated plant and new
Systems that worked well
with a large workforce may
need to be simplified to work
with a smaller workforce
Contractors may lack the
skills and experience of full
time employees.
Employees may need to
develop skills in supervising
contractors and this may add
to their workload

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Plan the change by mapping

existing tasks onto the new
Old tasks may disappear,
be automated or be done by
Make clear who works for
whom even if this changes
between or during shifts.
Empower individuals
to question conflicting
instructions or unreasonable
Make sure all tasks are
accounted for, especially
safety-related tasks.
Infrequent tasks (e.g.start
up and shutdown)and

Staff cover for sickness

and holiday absences;

New skills that will be


Arrange resources and

time for the training
and development
of management,
supervisory and
technical skills and

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Element IA7: Human Factors

In the UK the HSE guidance (HSE 2003) sets out a three-step framework for managing change:
Step 1 Getting organised.
Step 2 Risk Assessment.
Step 3 Implementing and monitoring the change.
The focus is on site and operational changes, however it should also be noted that changes at
corporate level can have a significant impact on safety at operational level.
Figure 15: Managing Organisational Change
Figure 15: Managing Organisational Change
Step 1: Getting Organised
Have a strong policy
Make senior-level managers accountable
Have a clear change-management procedure
Communicate and include everyone
Review and challenge
Step 2: Risk Assessment
Identify the people involved
Identify all changes
Assess the risks
Consider human factors, competence and workload
Test scenarios
Step 3: Implementing and Monitoring
Provide enough resources to make the change safely
Monitor risks during change
Keep your plan under review, track actions
Monitor performance after change
Review your change policy

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Step 1: Getting Organised

A strong and clear policy is required for the management of organisational change.
It should:

Set out principles, commitments and accountabilities in relation to impact on health, safety
and the environment; and

Commit to proportionate consideration of all organisational changes, large and small as

even those not obviously connected to safety need to be considered.

Senior management need to demonstrate a clear commitment to safety by their actions, from
the outset.
A senior, highly influential manager should sponsor or champion the change ensuring the safety
aspects of the change receive an appropriate level of resource and attention.
The effort and resource must be proportionate to:

The complexity of the change;

The scale of the hazards concerned; and

The degree to which the change may impact on the management of major hazards.

Change-Management Procedure
Organisational change should be planned in a thorough, systematic, and realistic way. The
procedure for each element of organisational change management should be documented and
structured. The following should be clear:

The processes or activities that are to be carried;

Who is accountable and who is responsible for these activities;

Who else is involved, and how;

What potential risk factors are to be considered; and

Who reviews the change process, when and how.

In a large major hazard organisation, a register of individuals and their tasks, roles and
responsibilities related to the major hazard can be useful in easing the assessment of frequent
changes (large and small) that bigger organisations experience. This may obviate the need to
start from scratch with each change.
All stages of the process should be adequately recorded to ensure transparency, auditability,
and accountability.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The process of organisational change should involve all those concerned from an early stage,
and keep them involved throughout the process.
The benefits include:

Improved industrial relations and a higher level of acceptance of the change; and

The utilisation of unique knowledge of employees and contractors.

Review and challenge

Senior management need to be given adequate information to review progress regularly. Plans
should be changed if risk assessment shows a potential significant risk.

Step 2: Risk Assessment

The key aim of risk assessment is to ensure that following the change, the organisation will
have the resources (human, time, information etc), competence and motivation to ensure
safety without making unrealistic expectations of people. Two aspects of the change need risk

Risks arising from the process of change (how you get there); and

Risks and opportunities resulting from the outcome of change (where you want to get to).

Assessment Procedures
There are two complementary approaches to ensure that the main risks are identified:

Mapping of tasks and individuals from the old to the new organisation; and

Scenario assessments where the reorganisation impacts staff who may have a role in
handling or responding to crises such as upsets and emergencies.

The assessment should consider the following factors:

Past experience and historical data (e.g. accident / incident data, maintenance records, etc);

Risks from using contractors;

Supervision and monitoring to ensure the quality and safety of work;

Contingency plans to maintain low risks (and not increase risks) should the contractor lose
the capacity or willingness to deliver to requirements;

Workload assessment to avoid the consequences of overloading (fatigue, shortcuts etc);


The potential for human failures.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Step 3: Implementing and Monitoring the

Resources should be sufficient to ensure that exposure to risks is not significantly increased
during the change.
Plans should account for an increase in workload during the transition.

Monitoring and Review

Risk assessments and plans for both the transition and progress should be regularly reviewed
to determine progress against set objectives and key performance indicators.
Health and safety performance during and after the change should be monitored through both
proactive and reactive measures.
Where there is evidence of significant risk, decisions may need to be changed or reversed.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The Job
Patterns of Employment
Work is becoming increasingly flexible, with growing numbers of people teleworking (working
from other locations using the home as a base or working from home), working part-time
and shift working. Employment patterns are also changing, becoming increasingly uncertain.
Companies are making greater use of short term contracts, temporary workers, and the selfemployed.
In the UK, in general however, full-time permanent jobs remain the foundation of the UK labour
market. Currently, 8% of the workforce are teleworkers. It is suggested that by 2015, 70-80%
of workers could be, at least partially, working from a remote location. The majority of new jobs
to 2014 will be part-time. Shift work has remained constant over the past decade. However,
continued movement towards a 24-hour society may generate increased demand
The workforce is becoming and will continue to become increasingly diverse. To accommodate
this, greater diversity in working patterns may be required to ensure that staff with specific
needs - perhaps due to age, disability, care responsibilities, etc - are attracted and retained by
employers. Employers will need to do this because of a potential short fall in the labour force,
and in response to changing legislation.
In the UK, 57% of temporary workers have been employed for less than 12 months. The higher
risk of injury associated with temporary workers is closely related to the increased risk of injury to
new workers. According to HSE research, temporary workers are likely to be at increased risk of
injury, as the risk of workplace injury is increased during the first 4 months within a new job
The UK Labour Force Survey (LFS) shows that the rate of injuries to new employees, in the first
six months of employment is double that of employees with more than 12 months experience.
This pattern is consistent regardless of occupation, or hours worked.
Table 18: Rate of Injury by Job Tenure
Job tenure

Rate of all injuries per 100

workers per 12 months

Less than 6 months


6-11 months


12 months less than five years


5 years or more


It has been suggested that this heightened rate is due to an initial learning effect and that once
appropriate skills have been learned, the accident rate evens out.
Analysis of hours worked shows the expected correlation between increased exposure to
hazards due to longer time in the workplace and an increased incident rate.
Basic incident rate calculations do not, however show whether or not there is any additional risk
associated with long or short hours of work against the average 39.5 hours per week.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The following table, bands employees by hours worked and shows the equivalent risk of injury
per 100 workers to a weekly average of 39.5 hours.
Table 19: Rate of all Workplace Injury by Usual Weekly Hours of Work
Band of Usual Weekly
Hours of Work
Less than 16
60 or more

Average Hours in

Rate of all workplace injury per

100 workers equalised to a weekly
average of 39.5 hours



The study suggests:

Workers on a low number of weekly hours worked have a significantly increased risk of
workplace injury;

The more hours worked the lower the risk of injury;

Those working less than 16 hours a week have double the rate of injury to those working
30-50 hours a week; and

The high risk is independent of other occupational factors.

Shift Work
Early research into the effects of shift work revealed that approximately 10% of employees
enjoyed it; 70% accepted it and 20% were unable to cope with the demands and dropped out.
As those with the lowest tolerance tend to drop out, those that remain can be seen as survivors.
Consequently the results of research into the effects of shift work must be interpreted in this context.

Shift Work and Health

The key findings of epidemiological research into shift work and ill-health is presented in Table 20.
The generalities of this population based evidence must be considered in the context of
the individual.
A broad range of factors including age, body clock phasing, ability to nap and lifestyle
adaptation, to take advantage of the opportunities shift work offers, all play a part in determining
an individuals susceptibility.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Table 20: Shift Work and Ill Health


Mortality rates for shift workers are no higher than those for the
population at large. However, they have been shown to be higher
than for day worker


Disease Higher rates of cardiovascular disease have been found

in shift workers, and particularly former shift workers. The causes
are unclear but seem to include, smoking, blood pressure and
increased body mass


Shift workers have a higher risk of gastric and duodenal ulcers.

Causes are thought to include irregular meal times, poor diet,
smoking and alcohol consumption


Disorders Shift workers have a greater tendency towards general

malaise, anxiety and depression

Sleep Loss

Shift workers have been shown through electro-encephalography

to have less sleep and of a poor quality
The reasons are physiological (circadian rhythms), social and
An increase in fatigue on night and early shifts may pose a serious

The summary of research in HSEs CRR 31, 1992 suggested that certain classes of employee
should not be allowed to work shifts, notably those:

On medication with critical dose schedules;

With cardiovascular problems;

With gastro intestinal disorders; and

With epilepsy.

It was further recommended that employees aged 40 and above should have regular health

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Shift Work and Safety

There is a general consensus that both productivity and safety are diminished on night shift.
It should be noted that conditions on nights may be very different. Staffing levels, the presence
of management, maintenance activities and the quality and quantity of scheduled work are all
key variables.
The main causal factors identified in research are:

Rhythmic Changes
Performance levels are at their lowest ebb in the early hours of the morning. A notable
exception is work requiring a high short-term memory load.

Individuals felt more fatigued and were more likely to fall asleep than those on days. This
is due to a combination of body rhythm changes and reduced duration of sleep; and

Shift Length
Shifts over 8 hours long generally show a tailing off of performance, particularly if tasks
are physically or mentally demanding, or repetitive. Longer shifts appeared to give rise to
higher accident rates though this is highly dependent upon the nature of the work being

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) has defined ergonomics as:
The scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and
other elements of a system,
and considers that a holistic approach, considering physical, cognitive, social, organisational,
environmental and other relevant factors is essential

The Components of Ergonomics

Ergonomics deals with the interaction of technological and work situations with the human
The basic human sciences involved are anatomy, physiology and psychology. These sciences
are applied by the ergonomist towards two main objectives:

The most productive use of human capabilities; and

The maintenance of human health and well-being.

Anthropometrics provides data on dimensions of the human body, in various postures.

Biomechanics considers the operation of the muscles and limbs, and ensures that working
postures are beneficial, and that excessive forces are avoided.
Human physiology is applied in two main technical areas:

Work physiology: Addresses the energy requirements of the body and sets standards for
acceptable physical work-rate and workload, and for nutrition requirements; and

Environmental physiology: Analyses the impact of physical working conditions - thermal,

noise, vibration and lighting and sets the optimum requirements for these.

Psychology is concerned with human information processing and decision-making capabilities.

In simple terms, this can be seen as aiding the cognitive fit between people and the things
they use.
The International Ergonomics Association has also defined three areas of specialisation within

Physical ergonomics;

Cognitive ergonomics; and

Organisational ergonomics.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Physical Ergonomics
Physical ergonomics is concerned with human anatomical, anthropometric, physiological and
biomechanical characteristics. Areas of application include:

Working postures;

Materials handling;

Repetitive movements and work related upper limb disorders; and

Workplace layout, safety and health.

Cognitive Ergonomics
Cognitive ergonomics is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory,
reasoning, and motor response, as they affect interactions between humans and other elements
of a system. Areas of study are in the context of human-system design and include:

Mental workload;


Skilled performance;

Human-computer interaction;

Human reliability;

Work stress; and


Organisational Ergonomics
Organisational ergonomics is concerned with the optimisation of socio-technical systems,
including their organisational structures, policies, and processes. Areas of study include:


Crew resource management;

Work design;

Design of working times;


Participatory design;

Co-operative work; and

Quality management

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The word anthropometry is derived from the Greek anthropos (man) and metron (measure).
Anthropometric data is used to specify the physical dimensions of work space, work equipment
and clothing so as to fit the task to the man.
The natural variations of human populations have significant implications for the design of
equipment, etc.
If the scale is from the smallest adult female to the largest adult male in a population, the male
will be 30 to 40% taller, 100% heavier, and 500% stronger (Bridger 1995).
The range of a population that should be accommodated in design depends upon the criticality
of the consequences.
In non critical situations it is usual to design to accommodate 90% of the population, based
upon a normal distribution (McKeown and Twiss, 2004).
Figure 16: Normal Distribution Chart
Figure 16: Normal Distribution Chart

Figure 17: The Five Shells of Influence

Workplace layout
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Element IA7: Human Factors

The Employee and Work Equipment as a

When considering the interaction of employee and work equipment as a system (the manmachine interface) it is necessary to consider two levels of influence upon the system.Direct
influence relates to the hands on aspects of human interaction with engineering control
Indirect influence relates to the broader environmental and cultural influences. ACSNI (1991)
illustrated these influences in Figure 17 The Five Shells of Influence.
Figure 17: The Five Shells of Influence
Figure 17: The Five Shells of Influence
Workplace layout

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Human Components of Work Systems

The Sensors
As discussed earlier, the human body receives information through sensation via sensory
receptors for sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch and proprioception.
Vision is the most dominant sense, followed by hearing. Sense of touch is also important in the
design of controls as is kinaesthetic feedback.
Often senses are used in combination when carrying out activities, e.g. a sound will attract a
vision response, and people will often hold items they want to look at.

The musculoskeletal system and body mass are effectors, as no meaningful activity can be
carried out without maintenance of body postures and the generation of forces through shifts
in body mass.
The primary effectors are the means by which information is entered into the machine, i.e. the
hands, the feet and the voice. The feet can effect simple controls such as the accelerator, brake
and clutch in a car when driving.
The hands have much more scope for effective control though, due to the opposable thumb.
The hands offer a range of options for manipulating objects, from precision grips, e.g. holding
a pen between fingertip and thumb, to a power grip where a lever is grasped at the base of the
fingers and palm.
Voice recognition software allows the voice to function as an effector, communicating directly
with machine components.

The effectors are supported by physiological, musculoskeletal, and information handling
The brain manages both low level processes to control basic sensory-motor responses and
higher level cognitive processing which allows for planning, problem solving and decision
Analogies comparing the brain to a computer system have some value in explaining the types
of processing that will occur, the limitation of those processes and circumstances where failures
could occur.
Typically these models refer to online and offline processing, where:

Online processing relates to decision-making whilst the control process is operational.

Decisions of this type tend to be skill based; and

Offline processing involves decision making and problem solving to discount possible
causes of action following mental stimulation. Decisions of this type tend to be knowledge

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Element IA7: Human Factors

However the analogy is not perfect, as discussed earlier, human mental processes are good at
recognising patterns, and filling in gaps in incomplete data, whereas computers are programmed
to solve problems logically.
Structurally also there are differences; memory and processing are separate in computers
whereas in humans, processing actively involves memory.
Ergonomic approaches to human computer interfaces look to use the strengths of human and
computer processing to compensate for the weaknesses in the other.

Machine Components
Machine includes any manufactured device used to enhance some aspect of human
performance, from simple hand tools through to devices with complicated mechanical
engineering to computer software and systems.
To illustrate the concept of the human machine interface, a relationship between an operator
and a machine, or driver and car, provide the most tangible example of the links between the
human and machine controls.

Effective human interactions with machines are dependant upon the design and construction of
suitable controls which can be acted upon by the effectors.
With mechanical systems, controls can also provide direct feedback during the conduct of
control actions, e.g. resistance felt when turning a car steering wheel provides information
about road conditions and / or tyre pressure. Control design is discussed in more detail later.

The Controlled Process

This is what the machine does, as controlled by the human, whether it is a pillar drill making a
hole in sheet metal, nuclear fission producing electricity in a power station, or a computer filing,
analysing or sending data.

The simplest display arrangement is where the process can be experienced directly through the
sensors during the action, e.g. digging a hole with a spade.
Operating traditional machinery utilises information received directly from the control process
and from feedback. Information is also provided indirectly through dials and gauges.
The most complex display arrangements are used in hazardous industries such as chemical
processing, where due to the level of technical sophistication, the human is increasingly
distanced from the control process but interacts with the machine through entirely artificial

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Control Design
Controls should be designed to operate in low stress postures with minimal static loading of
body parts. Control dimensions should be determined using appropriate anthropometric data.
The following factors also require attention.

If high levels of force are required, the design should allow for it to be applied easily, e.g.
through the use of a power grip design rather than a precision grip.

The closer the correspondence between the movement of the control and the response of the
controlled process, the more accurate the control will be (e.g. the movement of a steering wheel
and the corresponding movement of the vehicle on the road).

High priority controls should be located so that they are easily seen and easily accessed
(the optimum reach envelope). All controls should be within the zone of maximum reach (the
maximum distance which the operator can comfortably reach).

Functional Groupings
Similarly functional controls should be grouped together. The grouping should not cause
interference with adjacent controls.
If controls are to be used sequentially, the layout should correspond to the sequence. Controls
may be interlocked to ensure they can only be operated in the correct sequence.

Cultural influences will need to be considered, e.g. in Europe, flicking a switch downwards
turns the system on whereas in the United States of America the same action would switch the
system off.

Controls should move in a direction compatible with the display. Controls on similar machines
will be expected to perform in a similar way.

Controls can be coded to enable operators to distinguish between them. Distinctions can be
made by:

Geometric forms such as circles, squares and triangles are useful to distinguish between types
of control, giving both visual and tactile cues. Research suggests operatives can cope with up
to 12 (McKeown & Twiss, 2004).

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Colour codes are only effective in a well lit environment. Expectation may interfere with
understanding. Green is for go and red is for stop, but green also indicates safety and red
indicates danger. Will the design intent be appropriately perceived? Could it be misinterpreted
due to personal issues colour blindness?

Tactile characteristics such as rough or smooth, hard or soft may be useful to differentiate
controls where lighting is poor.

The use of three size groupings small, medium and large (with a minimum of 15mm diameter
and 10mm thickness differences) corresponding to different control activities has been shown
to be effective. However, it is combinations of shape, colour, texture and size that provides
effective means of distinguishing between controls.

As mentioned, controls should be where expected.

The control should be in a position relative to the display where both can be viewed simultaneously
by the operator without compromising comfort. Control layouts should be spatially compatible
(in a similar layout) to that of the display. Consider then the relationship between the controls
and the burners on a cooker hob.

Labels can be used to describe a control function. Labels written traditionally from left to right are
easiest to interpret, and the quickest to read and react to. Problems can arise with understanding
due to language or literacy issues, and labels can be easily damaged or obscured due to a
range of environmental factors.

Operational Methods
Switches, buttons and dials can be used to distinguish between different control functions.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Display Design
The primary objective of any display is to ensure that the required information can be received
and understood with the necessary levels of efficiency and effectiveness.
Thought must be given to integrating the display with the controls. Bridger (1996) highlights
three general principles:

Gestalt Principles can be used to ensure that functional relationships between inputs and
outputs are correctly represented;

Mental Workloads can be minimised by careful consideration of spatial memory and

abilities to process mental images; and

Learned Associations between displays, displayed variables and control movements

should be incorporated to minimise errors.

Specific additional factors to consider include:

Most populations will expect a dial to be read clockwise. Dials are not effective for providing
warnings or handling complex information.

Digital Displays
Can be difficult to read when data is changing rapidly, but provide a useful service where
accuracy is required and where numerical data is presented constantly or with minimum

Colour codes can be used and flashing lights can be useful for attracting attention, e.g. red =
danger and green = safe conditions.

These are devices that give a visual indication as to which of a number of electrical circuits is
operated, e.g. indicating which sensor in a fire detection or security system has triggered.

Auditory Displays
Varying frequency and intensity can be particularly useful to warn of danger. BS EN 60073:2002
(Basic and safety principles for man-machine interface, marking and identification. Coding
principles for indicators and actuators) provides detail on coding principles for machine
indicators and actuators.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Ergonomically Designed Control Systems

Ergonomically Designed Control Systems
Cranfield Institute of Technology conducted early research into the design of control systems. A

traditional horizontal lathe was analysed to enable comparison of the location of existing
of Technology
early research
into the
design of control systems.
with the
data (bodyconducted
part measurements)
of the average
A traditional horizontal lathe was analysed to enable comparison of the location of existing
with the anthropometric
average operator. There
were significant
differences between
the (body
two. The
had obviously notofbeen
the two. The lathe had obviously not been designed with
the limitations
of the
average operator
in mind.
the limitations of the average operator in mind.
Figure 20: Cranfield Man
Figure 18: Cranfield Man

Ergonomic considerations are much more likely to affect the design of machinery nowadays.
This can be seen in the control systems for most modern machinery including cranes and
Average Operator
Cranfield Man



Ergonomic Design of Crane Cabs

Shoulder width
In the UK the HSE have identified two main ergonomic concerns with the design of crane cabs
Arm span
used offshore.
Elbow height
Poor working
posture: Much of1.07
the work is done sitting,0.76
often leaning forwards, head position
will vary considerably to follow loads; and equipment that is difficult to use.
Controls: require continuous operator application for considerable periods of time. Space is
Table 24: A Comparison of Cranfield Man and the Average Operator
often limited and control location is compromised as a consequence.
Design improvements have included: routing steering columns through the dashboard rather
than the floor to optimise floor space and leg room, providing adjustable controls to fit the
operator, mounting gauges on the steering column for easier visibility and mounting microphones
in a position that allows comfortable communication.

Ltd (V3.1)

| A6 page 83|

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Ergonomic Design of Aircraft Cockpits

Figure 19: Instrument Panel

Figure 19: Instrument Panel

Modern aircraft have a multitude of systems and controls blended into the instrument panel.
Advancements in aviation technology have driven the panels shape and size, making the
instrument panel cluttered and harder to expand. The causes of numerous aviation accidents
have been traced to unrecognised or improperly interpreted instrument readouts.
Such problems may be averted with intelligent ergonomically engineered pilot alerting systems.
Advanced engine monitoring systems can combine several instruments into one display
which can be located in an optimal location for comfortable view and easy hand access. The
information depicted on each instrument is grouped according to necessity and function and
advanced software and hardware technologies are used to reduce pilot workload and enhance
intuitive decision-making.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Physical Stressors and Human

Physical stressors such as cold, heat, noise, vibration and light may all impact upon human
reliability. The effect of each is discussed.

High internal temperatures (38.5C) have been shown to increase the speed of performance
due to an acceleration of the bodys internal clock.
Increased rates of error and an increase in risk taking behaviour have also been associated
with high internal temperatures. A dose response relationship is evident with performance
diminishing over time.
Relative humidity is also a factor, with a range of 35 to 40% appearing optimal, whereas a
relative humidity of 75% has been shown to lead to diminished performance.

Cold causes peripheral vasoconstriction, shivering, impaired neural conduction and poor
muscular control, all of which may affect reaction times.
Research by Meese et al 1989 examined reaction times and vigilance of workers at
temperatures of 6C, 12C, 18C and 24C.
Work at the lower temperatures was clearly shown to be slower and more cautious.
(Bridger 1995)

Clearly noise can affect the performance of auditory tasks by masking important audible cues.
The degree of effect will vary depending upon the intensity and nature of the noise, and the
contextual importance of the audible information.
It has been further suggested that noise can degrade performance by interfering with mental
processes (too loud to hear yourself think!).
Apparently contradictory research has shown that noise can increase performance levels under
some circumstances due to an increased level of arousal (readiness for action). Noise can also
impact upon levels of satisfaction with the working environment, though attitudes towards noise
sources are highly subjective.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Vibration has been shown to be a major
risk factor in a development of spinal
problems in certain driving occupations.
Vibration white finger (VWF) and hand
arm vibration syndrome (HAVS) can lead
to permanent disability of the hands with
pain, numbness and lack of grip.
Vibration can also affect task performance
by causing body parts to resonate,
degrading vision and manual control. At
5 Hertz the shoulder girdle resonates,
between 20 and 30 Hertz the head
resonates between the shoulders and
at higher frequencies the eyes may also

Poor work place lighting can lead to a
broad range of problems:

Glare may cause discomfort or be

temporarily disabling;

Visual fatigue and eye strain may occur; and

Poor lighting may also have an adverse physiological affect.

Even before the Hawthorne Experiments it was believed that workplace lighting could have
a specific impact upon workers satisfaction. Natural lighting with a view of the outside world
is generally considered to create a more satisfactory workplace. Many workers believe that
working in artificial light is unhealthy.
Light also has biochemical and behavioural effects on humans. The action of ultra-violet light on
the skin is essential for the production of vitamin D, which is used in the metabolism of calcium.
Interruptions of these processes can lead to physiological effects (rickets) and psychological
effects (SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder).
Light is also an important cue for the body clock or circadian rhythms. Lack of exposure to
daylight due to night shift work can give rise to shift lag, (displacement of the body clock).

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work define stress as:
an imbalance between the demands made of them and the resources they have available to
cope with those demands.
Although the experience of stress is psychological, stress also affects peoples physical health.
Work related stress is experienced when the demands of the work environment exceed the
employees ability to cope with or control them. This leads to an adverse reaction that people
have to excessive pressures or other types of demand placed on them.
The Management Standards published by the HSE (HSE 2005) cover six contributory factors
to stress at work. These are:

This includes issues such as workload, work patterns and the work environment.
Are procedures in place to ensure staff are neither overloaded nor underloaded?
Does the physical environment contribute further stressors, e.g. noise, vibration, high
temperatures, etc.?

How much say the person has in the way they do their work e.g. work planning, use of
acquired skills, repetitive or monotonous work.

This includes the encouragement, sponsorship and resources provided by the organisation,
line management and colleagues.

Between employees, e.g. physical violence, threatened or actual, verbal abuse
such as repeated shouting and swearing, malicious gossip; victimisation such
as excessive supervision, unjustified picking of faults, prevention of career
development; sexual harassment; and discrimination due to gender, race or disability.
Are systems in place to effectively manage concerns of bullying, harassment and

Whether people understand their role within the organisation and whether the organisation
ensures that they do not have conflicting roles.

How organisational change (large or small) is managed and communicated in the

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Table 21: Effects of Stress on the Individual

Effects of Stress on the Individual


Increased anxiety

Raised heart rate


Increased sweating

Increased drug use, e.g. alcohol, tobacco


Tiredness due to disrupted sleeping pattern

Blurred vision
Skin rashes

As well as its effect on individuals it must be noted that stress also effects the organisation at
large. Stressed employees availability for work will be diminished as will their capacity, and
quality of work. This will lead to organisational ill-health.
Figure 20: Patterns of Causes and Effects of Stress
Figure 20: Patterns of Causes and Effects of Stress

Exposure to
and psychosocial

external to
between demands
and ability to cope

Experience of
stressed / troubled
availability and poor

Poor / impaired
employee health

Impaired quality
of employee life

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Behavioural Change
A number of factors influence the behaviour of individuals including the nature of the organisation,
management arrangements and attitudes, the nature of the job to be performed and of course
the characteristics of the individual. By addressing any of these influences in a positive way, the
behaviour of the individual may be modified.
Behaviours and human factors are widely recognised as having an important effect on incident
and accident causation and incident and accident prevention.
The idea of behavioural safety is that a model is used to assist the employer through the
process of identifying behavioural issues, developing action plans, implementing corrective
actions, and evaluating the effectiveness of the change process.
Behavioural approaches to safety management should not be seen as the panacea for all
safety problems. Behaviour modification is not an alternative to sound safety management
policies, systems and procedures. However, when these are well established and functioning
effectively, behaviour modification can play an important role in achieving further improvements
in safety performance.
In the UK, The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health suggest that up to 80% of work
related accidents are caused by or contributed to by employees behaviour, e.g. cutting corner
so save time, ergonomic factors, accepted practice, reinforcement of unsafe behaviours, not
understanding risky behaviour, etc. (IOSH, 2006).
To change behaviour in the workplace is a long, slow process which is not likely to yield
instantaneous results. It is more likely that the behaviour modification process is achieved by
changing the culture of the work group or organisation.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

The Process of Behavioural Change

In order to achieve behavioural change and consequently modify behaviour and culture in the
workplace there are a number of key issues that need to be addressed.
All such programmes essentially require:

Significant workforce participation.

Without a buy in from those whose behaviours are in question then change is more likely
to be resisted.

Identification / target unsafe behaviours.

By careful analysis of accident and incident data the behaviours which contribute the
most to poor performance can be identified. These behaviours along with solutions can
then be agreed with the workforce/ representatives and targets set for modification.

Observed behaviours.
Behaviour in the workplace can be recorded and the real actions of individuals identified.
The participation of the workforce in the observation process is another useful in
involving them in the behaviour modification programme and can assist with achieving
buy in to the programme. The data gathered can be extremely powerful and useful in
modifying the systems, e.g. SSOW, to ensure that the desired or modified behaviour can
actually take place.

Data based decision making.

The data gathered is then used to inform the decision making in terms of reinforcing
the desired behaviours and ongoing observations can be used to plot the change in
behaviour patterns.

Where behaviour is not influenced then an intervention strategy may be required to
ensure that the desired outcomes are achieved. These planned interventions can take
the form of briefing sessions, both formal and informal as well specific training in the
skills and knowledge required to perform to the required standard and in the desired

Performance monitoring and feedback.

Feedback and effective communication is a key element of any behavioural initiative.
Feedback can take place in a variety of forms including placing of charts providing
data in the workplace, meetings, bulletins, specific feedback to individuals at the time
of observations, etc. This system allows for continuous monitoring of the modification
programme and subsequent target setting to continually improve.

A behaviour modification programme can be used in conjunction with a climate or culture

measuring tool as discussed earlier. Indeed the results may provide a tangible shift in culture in
the organisation over time which can be measured.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Behaviour modification is not an alternative to a rigorously applied conventional safety
management system. Sound engineering and systems should be in place before attempting to
use behaviour modification programmes to further improve performance.
Research evidence and practical experience show that significant improvements in safety
performance can be achieved by implementing appropriate behaviour interventions.
Behaviour modification is unlikely to be successful unless the job, environment and organisational
factors are also considered. This will require behaviour change at all levels of the organisation,
not just at the workplace.
There is also evidence that appropriate behaviour interventions can improve other aspects of
performance as well as safety.
Good intervention tools which work at one location may fail at another location.
The suitability of a behaviour intervention tool is influenced by the existing maturity of the
A Safety Culture Maturity Model has been developed to provide a framework to assist companies
establish their current level of maturity and identify the appropriate actions required to move to
the next level of maturity.
Behaviours and human factors are widely recognised as having an important effect on incident
and accident causation and incident and accident prevention.
The idea of behavioural safety is that a model is used to assist the employer through the
process of identifying behavioural issues, developing action plans, implementing corrective
actions, and evaluating the effectiveness of the change process.
Behavioural approaches to safety management should not be seen as the panacea for all
safety problems.
Behaviour modification programme is a range of techniques designed to encourage or
discourage a limited set of predetermined behaviours.

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Element IA7: Human Factors

Arnold J,
Cooper CL and
Robertson IT

Work Psychology: Understanding Human Behaviour in the

Workplace (3rd edition), London, Financial Times Pitman

Bridger RS

Introduction to Ergonomics, New York, McGraw-Hill Inc


Brooks I

Organisational Behaviour: Individuals, Groups and

Organisation (2nd edition), London, Financial Times Prentice

Dul J and

Ergonomics for Beginners (2nd edition), London, Taylor and

Weerdmeester B Francis.

Fontana D

Personality in the Workplace (3rd edition), London, MacMillan


Hayes N

Foundations of Psychology (3rd Edition), London, Thomson


Knowles DJ

Risk Perception Leading to Risk Taking Behaviour

Amongst Farmers in England and Wales, Contract Research Report
CRR 404/2002, ADAS Consultancy Ltd, for HSE

Malim T and
Birch A

Introductory Psychology, London, MacMillan Press


Martin J

Organizational Behaviour (2nd edition), London, Thomson


McKenna E

Business Psychology and Organisational Behaviour - A

Students Handbook, Hove, Psychology Press Ltd

McKeown C and
Twiss M

Workplace Ergonomics: a Practical Guide (2nd edition),

Leicester, IOSH Services Ltd.

Mullins LJ

Management and Organisational Behaviour (5th edition),

London, Financial Times Pitman Publishing

Reason J

Human Error, Cambridge University Press


Robbins SP

Essentials of Organizational Behaviour (6th edition), New

Jersey, Prentice Hall

Roughton JE and 2002

Mercurio JJ

Developing an Effective Safety Culture : A leadership

approach, Oxford, Butterworth-Heinmann

Salvendy G (ed)

Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics (third edition),

Hoboken, New Jersey, John Wiley and Sons Inc

Warr P (Ed)

Psychology at Work (4th edition), Penguin Books


Weyman AK and
Kelly CJ

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Risk Perception and Risk Communication: A Review of the

Literature, Contract

Page 84

Element IA7: Human Factors


Research Report CRR 248/1999, Health and Safety

Laboratories, for HSE.

Whittingham RB

The Blame Machine: Why Human Error Causes Accidents,

London, Elsevier

Wright L,
Booth-Davies J,
Ross A, and
Wallace B

Safety Management: A Qualitative Systems Approach, London,

Taylor and Francis

www.sociology.org.uk (Sociology Central)

www.bps.org.uk (British Psychological Society)
www.ergonomics.org.uk (The Ergonomics Society)
www.iea.cc (International Ergonomics Association)

Information Sheet CHIS 7 Organisational Change and Major

Accident Hazards.


Tackling Stress The Management Standards

Approach. INDG406


Tackling Work-related Stress A Management Guide to

Improving and Maintaining Employee Health and Well Being.


Reducing Error and Influencing Behaviour, HSG 48.


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