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RR543 - Development of a working model of how human factors, safety management systems and wider organisational issues fit together

Good human factors in practice is about optimising the relationships between demands and capacities in considering human and system performance. This report describes a working model integrating Human Factors (HF), Safety Management Systems (SMS) and wider Organisational issues in a safety context - Risk Control, focusing on chemical major hazards but with a view to a much wider application within health and safety. The 4 areas were defined by 850 components which were used to analyse 8 major accidents. Repeated failure patterns were found which were represented as 4 archetypical combinations of components from the HF, SMS, Organisation, and Risk Control taxonomy, each combination defined by a theme and drawn in the form of a warning triangle. The four themes were: Understanding of Major Accident Prevention; Competence for tasks; Priorities, attention & conflict resolution; and Assurance. The use of the warning triangle archetypes for developing stakeholder issues were defined in simple steps and tested in a one day workshop. Ideas for further development and the contexts within which the model could work best are discussed. These include development of guidance, support to duty holders and assistance to inspectors unfamiliar with human factors. The model fitted less well with inspection approaches directed at management level which were difficult to link to risk controls.

This report and the work it describes were funded by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Its contents, including any opinions and/or conclusions expressed, are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect HSE policy.

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Updated 2010-03-19