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February 21, 2011

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Research marks "beginning of journey" on human factors

Recommendations on how the process-safety industry can measure human factors that affect safety performance are presented in a new independent report.

The report is a collaborative effort between the Energy Institute (EI), the HSE and safety consultancy Lloyd’s Register EMEA. The research was carried out between spring and summer last year, with the aim of providing companies with a better understanding of how to manage the impact their employees have on safe and efficient operations.

Lloyd’s Register chief executive, Richard Sadler, expects the review to be welcomed by the energy and related process and transportation industries. He said: “This report is significant in that it proposes a set of metrics and provides information that will allow the process industry to accurately measure the human factors that affect the safety performance of the organisation, particularly concerning how the workforce interacts with high-risk assets.”

Sadler went on to say that there have been big improvements in asset quality and management systems over the past decade, and describes human factors as the final frontier where significant advances in workplace safety can still be achieved.

“What recent investigations of industrial incidents continue to show is that strategies for asset safety are not enough. Effective risk management must include the human part of the interaction between people, plant and process, and that is why we continue to invest heavily in this particular area,” explained Sadler.

Rob Miles head of human and organisational factors at the HSE’s offshore division, revealed that the Executive is placing increasing emphasis on the role of safety leaders during its inspections and investigations. He said: “A key element of this is what information reaches those in leadership roles, how they understand that information, and what actions they then take. We see this report as providing the framework for how such information is gathered and used, particularly on the challenging human-factors issues.”

The report’s authors believe identifying leading performance indicators for human factors will help companies understand the areas in which they need to take a proactive approach to managemen. Chair of the EI’s Human and Organisational Factors Committee, Graham Reeves, explained: “Major-accident hazard site operators, who are seeking to demonstrate continuous improvement in the management of the human element of risk, should read this research report. It introduces the latest thinking on performance measurement and proposes leading and lagging indicators for the HSE human factors key topics.

“Simple, concise information is provided, which stresses workforce involvement combined with a design template to support the design of human-factors performance indicators for implementation within a business. This research report marks the beginning of a journey, but it is one which we will all have to embark on. Fortunately, the route we have to take is well defined. After all, you don’t improve what you don’t measure.”

The report can be found at www.energyinst.org/human-factors

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