Human Factors in Risk Assessment

blog image Posted by Growth Academy at 18-Apr-2024

Human Factors in Risk Assessment

When we address human factors in relation to health and safety, we're aiming to optimize human performance and reduce human failures. Organizations need to take a proportionate approach to human factors in risk assessment based on their hazard and risk profile.

HSE's approach to risk assessment is presented in the 'Controlling the risks in the workplace'. The assessment of human failures is implicit in that process. Where it needs to be made more explicit is where the hazard warrants it ie where there is a major hazard or significant occupational health and safety hazard. In either case, you need an adequate understanding of the human role in the relevant task or activity.

Key Principles in Integrating Human Factors in Risk Assessment:

  • Through your risk assessment, you should have identified those tasks that are safety critical or expose people to occupational health hazards;
  • Ensure you have an environment in which they are performed. This may include walking and talking through the task where it is carried out.
  • Involve the workforce in carrying out the assessment and the identification of appropriate controls;
  • The people carrying out the assessment should have an understanding of the different types of failure and the factors that make them more or less likely to occur;
  • Identify the human failures that could be made in the task that might lead to an accident or incident and the performance influencing factors that make those failures more or less likely to occur.
  • Identify appropriate control measures that prevent or mitigate the human failures you have identified;
  • Where possible you should aim to design out the potential for human failure and design in the potential for recovery should human failure occur. This includes the design of the plant, system, environment, and task, taking into account the needs and capabilities of users. Reliance on procedures and training are unlikely to be sufficient.
  • Check that your control measures work. Regularly review your risk assessment to see if any further improvements can be made.
  • The approach you take to human factors in risk assessment should be proportionate to the hazards you face. For most industries, a qualitative approach will be sufficient. An example of a qualitative framework that is useful and effective is the approach outlined in Core Topic 3 of the Human Factors Inspectors Toolkit (pdf). For some major hazard industries, a quantitative approach may be appropriate.

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