accidents attributed to human error has increased, but new guidance
aimed at highlighting human factors should help managers reduce
accidents caused by such mistakes.
today by the Health and Safety Executive is aimed at managers with
health and safety responsibilities and health and safety
professionals in all industrial sectors.
Some estimates attribute up to 80% of accidents to the actions or
omissions of people. Human error is often cited in many major
accidents including Three Mile Island, Bhopal, Clapham Junction and
Whilst such major accidents concentrate the mind, many minor
accidents in the workplace also involve a human contribution at many
levels in an organisation. A focus on human factors can not just
reduce the number of accidents but also cases of occupational
ill-health and can reap benefits in terms of a more efficient and
David Eves, deputy director general of HSE said:
'The new guide has the key message that proper consideration of
'human factors' is a key ingredient of effective health and safety
management. In the past this is an area that may have seemed too
complex or difficult to do anything about, but the guidance provides
practical help on many of the important health and safety issues for
both managers and for safety representatives.'
The guidance encourages organisations to consider human factors in
- During risk assessments
- Following an accident or incident
- When designing or procuring equipment
- In certain other aspects of health and safety management
eg fatigue, communications and culture
The publication also contains a series of case studies to show how
organisations have successfully tackled human factors problems.
Examples include how a UK refinery improved communication
arrangements for shift handovers and how a rail company took steps to
improve the alertness of safety critical staff.
Copies of Reducing error and influencing behaviour, HSG48,
ISBN 0 7176 2452 8, price£11.50, are available from HSE Books,
PO Box 1999, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 6FS, tel: 01787-881165 or fax:
1. Human factors covers the job, the individual, the organisation and
how they impact on health and safety related behaviour.
2. The revised guidance replaces 'Human factors in industrial safety'
3. The new guidance will also be covered in a keynote address at an
Institute of Electrical Engineering conference in Bath 21-23 June
1999 on 'People in Control'. There will be a separate meeting on
the guidance for the offshore industries in Aberdeen later this