What are human and organisational factors?
Human and organisational factors is the term given to all elements within a workplace that have an influence on the people who work there. For example, workers and their equipment, work procedures or their environment.
In order to consider all the factors that are relevant to any given task, it can be helpful to consider these three interrelated areas.
- Job – what people are being asked to do (the task and its characteristics).
- Individual – who is doing the task (the person and their competence).
- Organisation – where the person is working (the organisation and its attributes)
Examples of human and organisational factors
- Over-reliance on procedures to manage risk and lack of user-friendly procedures.
- Competence, through a combination of skills, experience and knowledge.
- Staffing and workload – having the right numbers of the right people in the right place at the right time.
- Management of organisational change and organisational structural design.
- Communication of safety critical information, both verbally and written.
- Design of control rooms, plant and equipment.
- Fatigue from excessive work times or poorly designed shift-patterns.
- Adequate resources for maintenance, inspection and testing.
Why are human and organisational factors important?
Human and organisational factors impact on human reliability and performance, contributing to how effectively and safely a worker is able to do their job. How well these factors are managed will influence the likelihood of human failure.
Human failure refers to the error-making behaviour (e.g. mistakes and lapses) and violation behaviour (e.g. intentional rule-breaking) of individuals. Both components of human failure (error and violations) are heavily influenced by the work environment, the organisation people work in, and the design of the job they are asked to do.
When human and organisational factors are well managed, they set workers up for success – workers are more likely to do their job safely by not making errors or taking any violations. When they are poorly managed, or have not been considered, it increases the chances of human failure – worker performance reduces and incidents are more likely to happen.
“We cannot change the human condition, but we can change the conditions under which humans work.” - Professor James Reason
Relevance of human and organisational factors to the Western Australian resources sector
The United Kingdom’s Health and Safety Executive (UK HSE) is recognised internationally as a leader in health and safety. UK HSE developed a top 10 list of human and organisational factors, which is already being used by the petroleum and major hazard facilities industries in Western Australia.
The Department considered this model to be potentially applicable to the Western Australian mining industry, so Departmental and other data sources were reviewed to identify human and organisational factor trends.
The review validated the relevance of the UK HSE’s top 10 factors to the mining industry, and was used as a basis (with minor modifications) for the Department’s top 11 factors for mining. Following industry consultation, the top 11 human and organisational factor topics were adopted for the Western Australian resources sector.
An information sheet is available which outlines the top 11 human and organisational factors in greater detail.
A range of guidance material is currently being developed that is specific to the WA resources industry. To assist industry in understanding human and organisational factors, links to educational literature and tools are provided.
What is meant by safety and health culture?
The following presentations from the 2017 Human and organisational factors forum held in Perth are available for industry use.
The following presentations were delivered at the 2016 Human Factors Forum and can be downloaded to use at toolbox meetings.