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These briefing notes are aimed primarily at supervisors and managers, but anyone who works in the
petroleum or allied industries should find them of interest. If supervisors or managers become aware
that they or their workforce are experiencing any of the problems described, they should be able to take
practical steps to help solve them by gathering information and drawing this to the attention of higher
management, with a view to working together to make improvements.
Understanding how human factors (HF) influence human performance is increasingly important as a management aid.
There are many reference books and websites concerned with HF and, although the terms are in common use in industry,
it can be difficult to easily find out what a particular HF issue is really about. The Energy Institute (EI) briefing notes provide
a useful introduction to each HF subject and refer to the role of managers in organising tasks and work conditions. They
point to useful data and methods for improving performance and:
Introduce each subject with a definition.
Illustrate problem areas and solutions using case studies.
Provide a checklist of questions to gauge whether your company has a problem.
Suggest what company/management can do to address the specific HF issue.
List references/useful sources of information.
2nd edition of the briefing notes
The subjects described in the original briefing notes issued in 2003 were suggested in a workshop and by
UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspectors based on the issues they continued to find in industry. A
subsequent survey of those with an interest in these subjects produced 190 responses and suggested some new
subjects and ideas for changes leading to the latest version of the briefing notes.
What do the briefing notes cover?
Each briefing note provides an overview of a HF issue that continues to cause problems in a wide range of industries. It
also includes an overview of some useful HF methods. There are 20 briefing notes:
1. Introduction
8. Ergonomics
15. Incident and accident analysis
2. Alarm handling
9. Safety culture
16. Human factors integration
3. Organisational change
10. Communications
17. Performance indicators
4. Maintenance
11. Task analysis
18. Leadership
5. Fatigue
12. Human error and non-compliance
19. Pressure and stress
6. Safety critical procedures
13. Human reliability analysis
7. Training and competence
14. Behavioural safety
20. Occupational safety vs. process
Copyright © 2011 Energy Institute. A professional membership body incorporated by Royal Charter 2003. Registered charity number 1097899.
What can I do about it?
For each HF issue:
1. Find out whether there is a problem in the organisation.
2. Draw findings to management’s attention. Ideally, conduct 1 and 2 as a
joint effort with management’s input and support.
3. Seek to eliminate problems at source:
Remove or ‘engineer out’ the problems.
Look for ‘quick wins’ – easily achievable remedies.
Seek expert help when required – the Institute of Ergonomics and
Human Factors provides a directory of consultants (Reference 1).
Ideas for gathering information:
It is important to consider the
right HF topics at the right
time in a project lifecycle. For
example, it will be difficult or
impossible to develop procedures
and training at the early concept
stage of a project or to plan
maintenance until the physical
design of plant and facilities is
decided. Some factors interact
with others so that each one
should not be considered in
isolation from the others but as
a whole.
a. Conduct a brief survey – ask people face to face or using a questionnaire
if they have a problem with, for example, alarms, fatigue, procedures,
competence, etc.
b. The briefing notes have a self-assessment checklist that can be used to create a paper or email based survey. If more
ideas for questions to ask are needed, use the references shown in the briefing note.
c. Gather physical evidence of HF problems where possible: photographs, printouts, logs, incident reports, etc.
Descriptions of human factors
HF refers to all of those things that could affect human performance in a task. The word ergonomics is used to describe
broadly the same subject. HSE provides a useful guide to HF in its publication Reducing error and influencing behaviour
and on their website (Reference 2). HSE describes HF as the:
“…environmental, organisational and job factors, and human and individual characteristics which influence behaviour at
work. Careful consideration of human factors can improve health and safety by reducing the number of accidents and
cases of ill-health at work. It also provides considerable benefits for business by reducing the costs associated with such
incidents and increasing efficiency.”
HSE emphasises three basic factors: the job; the individual; and the organisation.
The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP) has also produced a useful pamphlet entitled Human factors
– a means of improving HSE performance (free download from OGP website, Reference 3), which describes three similar
factors to HSE: facilities and equipment; people; and management systems.
Benefits of human factors
Despite the best intentions of managers and workforce, poor front line human performance is responsible for a large
proportion of process safety and personal safety incidents at work (although the human contribution to successfully
meeting an organisation’s objectives is also considerable).
The HSE definition above also refers to organisational factors and describes some of the benefits of applying HF practices
in the workplace, including accident reduction. But it may not be clear who benefits and how:
The workforce benefits by having: tasks matched to their capabilities and characteristics; adequate support from
colleagues and supervisors; clear procedures and systems of work; appropriate training and competence development;
and from well-designed shift and rest patterns, workplaces, systems and tools.
Management benefits by the above arrangements leading to: increased productivity; better quality of work; reduced
errors and accidents; completion of projects on time and budget; and reduced costs.
Copyright © 2011 Energy Institute. A professional membership body incorporated by Royal Charter 2003. Registered charity number 1097899.
Integration of
human factors
It is important that HF
considerations are included in
specific projects but, perhaps more
importantly, that they are integrated
into an organisation’s everyday
approach to managing people.
A parallel can be drawn here with
quality assurance (QA) that was
formerly seen in many companies
as useful but separate from day
to day management. In the best
performing companies, however,
QA and other standards form
part of how they do business. To
achieve a similar integration of HF
requires total commitment from
the organisation’s most senior
and equipment
physical characteristics
(noise, lighting, temperature, etc.)
human behaviour
human characteristics
(physical and mental)
Management systems
management commitment
change management
incident investigation
hazard identification
risk assessment
Adapted from Reference 3.
This resource pack was prepared by Bill Gall (Kingsley Management Ltd.), with the support of the Keil Centre,
at the request of the EI Human and Organisational Factors Committee (HOFCOM). During this work, committee
members included:
Fiona Brindley
Bill Gall
Pete Jefferies
Stuart King
Rob Miles
Allen Ormond
Graham Reeves
Rob Saunders
Helen Rycraft
Dr Mark Scanlon
Dr John Symonds
John Wilkinson
Health and Safety Executive
Kingsley Management Ltd.
ConocoPhillips (Vice-Chair)
EI (Secretary)
Health and Safety Executive
BP plc (Chair)
Shell International Exploration and Production B.V
Magnox North Sites
ExxonMobil Corporation
Health and Safety Executive
Technical editing and project coordination were carried out by Stuart King (EI).
The briefing notes were designed by Lindsey Board (EI) and Pravin Dewdhory (Ideas Faculty Ltd.).
The EI also wishes to acknowledge its appreciation to all stakeholders who made significant contributions
during the survey and/or review stages of the project.
This second edition of the Briefing notes has been produced as a result of work carried out within the Technical Team of the Energy Institute (EI), funded
by the EI’s Technical Partners. The EI’s Technical Work Programme provides industry with cost effective, value adding knowledge on key current and future
issues affecting those operating in the energy sector, both in the UK and beyond.
The EI gratefully acknowledges contributions to the scientific and technical programme from the following companies:
BG Group
BP Exploration Operating Co Ltd
BP Oil UK Ltd
ConocoPhillips Ltd
EDF Energy
ExxonMobil International Ltd
Kuwait Petroleum International Ltd
Maersk Oil North Sea UK Limited
Murco Petroleum Ltd
Premier Oil
RWE npower
Saudi Aramco
Shell UK Oil Products Limited
Shell U.K. Exploration and Production Ltd
Statoil Hydro
Talisman Energy (UK) Ltd
Total E&P UK plc
Total UK Limited
World Fuel Services
However, it should be noted that the above organisations have not all been directly involved in the development of this publication, nor do they
necessarily endorse its content.
Copyright © 2011 by the Energy Institute, London.
The Energy Institute is a professional membership body incorporated by Royal Charter 2003. Registered charity number 1097899, England
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means, or transmitted or translated into a machine language without the written
permission of the publisher.
ISBN 978 0 85293 608 5
Published by the Energy Institute
The information contained in this publication is provided as guidance only and while every reasonable care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of its
contents, the Energy Institute cannot accept any responsibility for any action taken, or not taken, on the basis of this information. The Energy Institute
shall not be liable to any person for any loss or damage which may arise from the use of any of the information contained in any of its publications.
Additional copies of the Briefing notes and other EI publications are available online from:
or the EI’s book distributors, Portland Customer Services: t: +44 (0) 1206 796 351, e: [email protected]
Electronic access to EI and IP publications is available via our website, Documents can be purchased online as downloadable
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The Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors
HSE (1999), Reducing error and influencing behaviour, HSG48, HSE Books,
OGP, Human Factors – A means of improving HSE performance,
Further reading
Crowl, DA (ed) (2007) Human factors methods for improving performance in the process industries, Center for Chemical Process
Safety (CCPS), Wiley-Interscience.
The following websites are useful sources of further information on ergonomics/HF:
Step Change In Safety website
The Ergonomics Information Advisory Centre, based at Birmingham University
The International Association of Oil and Gas Producers (OGP)
Copyright © 2011 Energy Institute. A professional membership body incorporated by Royal Charter 2003. Registered charity number 1097899.