How Operators Make A Difference—Joining Human and Technical Factors

Technical and physical solutions are only part of the larger equation since human operators can have a huge impact on operational safety. 

Research from the British regulatory body Health and Safety Executive (HSE ) has identified what it considers to be the top-ten factors involving people, primarily the ones working in the control room. Some have a technological component, but mostly it’s the human element that goes wrong:

1.   Poor organizational change and transition management
2.   Worker demographic and staffing level problems
3.   Poor safety culture and blame mindset
4.   Fatigue from shiftwork and overtime
5.   Training inadequacies, overall competence and supervision
6.   Alarm handling combined with inadequate alarm management
7.   Erratic compliance with safety-critical procedures
8.   Poor communications between individuals, e.g. during a shift handover
9.   Ergonomics: (a) design of interfaces (b) health ergonomics
10. Maintenance inadequacies and errors

Some of these can be solved with training, some are more technical in nature, and others are cultural. All of them should remind us that safety is more than hardware.