It is often stated that ‘human error’ is to blame for more than 80% of all accidents
It’s far too easy to blame the last person that interacted with the process or system, put the incident down to human error, and tell your workforce to be more careful! But does this really work? If we are still seeing 80% of incidents being caused by the humans in your system, then I would suggest not!
By understanding the risks from the human element in your business, you can build human factors into your safety management system and see the benefits:
- Identify where human error at all levels will impact on the performance of your business and ensure that the consequences are removed or controlled.
- Allow people to develop a curiosity about their work and their contribution to avoiding a major accident, promoting dialogue to challenge unsafe behaviours and design safer ways of working.
- Understand the wider work practices which can influence the way people are working.
- Learn from previous incidents, internal and external, to promote desired behaviours.
- Know what really happens in your business, standardise the practices you want to keep and eliminate those you don’t.
- Ensure that you have sufficient numbers of competent people able to run your business operations.
- Ensure that you comply with regulations to manage human factors and avoid enforcement actions
In the current labour market, it can be difficult to attract staff with the specific set of skills, knowledge and aptitude that you need in your business.
This is particularly true when it comes to recruiting into the science industries and many companies find that they must invest significantly in the development of staff to develop the skills profile they need to run their businesses.
Whilst apprenticeship programs, colleges and universities will continue to produce high calibre applicants, attracting those people to join your business is a time-consuming exercise …. And they won’t have the experience to fill higher level positions for a few years yet! It must be easier to motivate your existing workforce to stay with you.
Here’s how human factors can help to keep your people engaged with your business:
- Recognise expertise within your work teams and allow them to advise on how work can be managed safely.
- Reveal real experiences and approve work practices to suit the people who have to work with them.
- Empower staff to be speak out, raise concerns, and be heard.
- Retain knowledge within the business.
- Develop standards to manage performance, define competence criteria and create visible progression paths.
- Design systems to maintain a balance of competences within your teams and invest in developing staff skills and knowledge.
- Recognise those people who have specialist skills and knowledge and their contribution to the business.
In the words of the late Trevor Kletz,
‘There’s an old saying that if you think safety is expensive, try an accident. Accidents cost a lot of money. And, not only in damage to plant and in claims for injury, but also in the loss of the company’s reputation’.
The difficulty in making a claim that human factor interventions save money is how do you put a value on something that hasn’t happened?
However, what is certain when you work in a high hazard industry is that you need to prove that you are managing your risks. If you can’t demonstrate that you are doing so, then you can guarantee that any enforcement action will cost more in time and money than if you had built it into your business plans and addressed it in the first place.
More importantly, utilising human factors techniques can avoid unnecessary cost in having to repeat work, correct mistakes and impact production schedules.
Good management of the human element of your business will impact the bottom line:
- Avoid the huge expense of a major accident on your site, for example: reparation work, external investigation by the regulator, internal investigation resource, increased insurance premiums, cost of downtime and the cost of lost orders.
- Manage human error and its influencing factors to positively impact on productivity, efficiency, reliability and therefore profitability.
- Take the opportunity to really understand how work is undertaken and what realistic time and resources are required to complete work to meet your standards.
- Understand how cost and time pressures may force people to work differently and assess if that is acceptable.
- Address human factors in your maintenance activities to help to reduce overruns in the shutdown schedule and minimise problems at start up.
- Understand the real skills required to be effective in a job role to ensure recruitment and selection practices create realistic expectations so that new starters stay with your business, avoiding repeat recruitment costs.
- Prioritise and manage your risks to avoid expensive regulatory enforcement actions.