Human Factors and Their Influence On Safety Performance
Did you know that human error is the number one cause of accidents in the workplace? In fact, it’s been estimated that up to 90% of all accidents are due to human error. This is why it’s so important for businesses to focus on human factors and their influence on safety performance. In this blog post, we will discuss human factors and how they can affect safety in the workplace. We will also provide tips for improving safety performance.
So, what exactly are human factors? Human factors are any characteristics of a person that can affect their ability to safely perform a task. This includes things like cognitive abilities, physical abilities, and emotional states. Human factors can have a big impact when it comes to workplace safety. For example, employees may be more likely to make a mistake if they feel stressed or fatigued. This could lead to an accident.
There are a few key things businesses can do to improve safety performance. First, they should identify the human factors that are most likely to impact safety in their workplace. Once these factors have been identified, businesses can implement procedures to mitigate the risks. For example, if employees feel stressed, they may need to take a break or be given more time to complete a task.
Another important tip for improving safety performance is to provide employees with proper training. This will ensure that they know the risks and how to safely perform their tasks. Employees should also be encouraged to report any safety concerns. By taking these steps, businesses can help to improve safety in the workplace and prevent accidents from happening.
Human Factors & Their Influence On Safety Performance
Over the years, several studies have examined the link between various accident types, graded in severity and near misses. One of the most interesting was conducted in the USA by H. W. Heinrich in 1950. He looked at over 300 accidents/incidents and produced the ratios.
This study indicated that there would be an accident for every 10 near misses. Although the accuracy of this study may be debated and other studies have produced different ratios, it is clear that if near misses are continually ignored, an accident will result. Further, the HSE Accident Prevention Unit has suggested that 90% of all accidents are due to human error, and 70% could have been avoided by management’s earlier (proactive) action. It is clear from many research projects that the major factors in most accidents are human factors.
The HSE has defined human factors as ‘environmental, organizational and job factors, and human and individual characteristics which influence behavior at work to affect health and safety.’
In simple terms, in addition to the environment, the health and safety of people at work are influenced by:
These are known as human factors as they each have human involvement. The personal factors that differentiate one person from another are only one part of those factors, not always the most important. For example, a person may be classified as being highly accident-prone. However, if they work in an organization that does not have good systems and controls, the chances of them having an accident are greatly increased. On the other hand, a person who is not normally accident-prone may have an accident because of a one-off error in judgment.
Organizational human factors arise from how an organization is structured and managed. The systems, processes, and practices in place can influence behavior and, as a result, health and safety. For example, a company that has a high rate of accidents may be caused by several different factors such as:
- Inadequate staffing levels
- Poorly designed jobs
- Lack of training
- Inadequate supervision
- Poor housekeeping standards
It is not always easy to identify the cause of an accident. In some cases, there may be several contributory factors. For example, a worker who trips on a loose cable may be classified as having had an accident due to a slip. However, if the cable was lying on the floor because of poor housekeeping, this would be classified as a human organizational factor.
Job human factors are those that relate to the design of the job. For example, if a job involves repetitive tasks, there is a risk of repetitive strain injury (RSI). The job design should consider ergonomics (the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment) to minimize the risks of RSI.
Personal human factors are those that relate to the individual. For example, a person’s age, health, fitness, and psychological state can influence their work behavior.
Factors that can lead to human error include:
- Lack of experience
- Inadequate training
- Poor supervision
- Organizational problems
- Personal problems
It is important to note that human error is not always the cause of an accident. For example, if a machine malfunctions, this would not be classified as human error. However, if the machine had not been maintained properly, this would be classified as a human organizational factor.
When investigating an accident, it is important to consider all contributory factors, not just those immediately apparent. For example, if a worker slips on a wet floor, it may be tempting to blame the accident on the worker for not being more careful. However, if the floor was wet because of a leaky pipe that had not been repaired, this would be classified as a human organizational factor.
Human factors are often considered health and safety, but they are also relevant to other aspects of work, such as productivity, quality, and customer satisfaction. For example, a poorly designed job can lead to errors and rework, which can impact productivity and quality. Similarly, if staff are not properly trained or supervised, this can lead to mistakes that could upset customers.