Human Factors Engineering

Using our understanding of Human Factors and expertise in engineering to support the design of plant and equipment.


Alarm Management

Assess and improve the design of safety alarm systems

Effective Alarm Systems Management is a major contributor to the successful performance of businesses that operate complex, networked assets which are often located in remote locations.

Applying our experience in systems-level thinking, together with detailed knowledge of control systems and instrumentation, we can help assess and improve the design of your safety alarm systems. With a close relationship with EEMUA, we regularly run popular and respected Alarm Management training courses together with dedicated consultancy.

Our Alarm Systems Management services are built around our internationally-recognised training course held in London, Manchester/Stockport, Bristol and on-site that hundreds of engineers have attended over the past decade.

This concise 1 day session provides an introduction on how the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) expects alarm systems to be managed. It helps managers, designers, supervisors and operators understand techniques to recognise and deal with typical human-factor problems involving alarm systems.

The tuition is aligned with EEMUA 191, the globally accepted and leading guide to good practice for all aspects of alarm systems, issued by the Engineering Equipment and Materials Users Association. This publication, developed by users of alarm systems with input from the HSE, gives comprehensive guidance on design, management and procurement.

Beyond training, we can support engineers with the planning and optimisation of their alarm systems through consultancy, including a Gap Analysis service for rationalisation projects.

Read Blog on discussing why Alarm Systems Management is now more important than ever

Control Room Design

Assess and improve the design of control room design

Applying our experience in systems-level thinking, together with detailed knowledge of control systems and instrumentation, we can help assess and improve the design of your control rooms. With a close relationship with EEMUA, we run Control Room Design training courses together with dedicated consultancy.

The role of the Control Room Operator in managing risks of modern process plant is indisputable. Detecting deviations early, diagnosing the causes reliably and responding promptly and appropriately all contribute to the avoidance of major accidents and reduces reliance on automated systems. To do this, Control Room Operators need to maintain good situational awareness. Their ability to perform this critical role will depend on them being healthy and alert.

Control room design can have a big influence on the ability of the Control Room Operators to perform their role effectively. In particular:

  • A good quality HMI can ensure they have the data they need in a useful format
  • The working environment can affect health and alertness
  • Physical design and provision of equipment can support effective communication.
  • Our two day course introduces the up to date guidance on control room design for those engaged in reviewing existing control rooms or designing new or modified control rooms.

Beyond training, we can support designers with the planning and optimisation of their Control Room through consultancy. We offer a Control Room Ergonomic Study which can typically evaluate existing control rooms against the new EEMUA 201 guide. Typically we would consider;

  • Physical arrangement of the Control Room, console desks and equipment
  • Human Machine Interface (HMI) provided by the control system
  • Communication links with other members of the team and users of the control room
  • Providing general working environment to operators for healthy concentration on their job.

This is something every COMAH site should do so they can demonstrate a robust human factors risk mitigation philosophy.

Human Factors Ergonomics (HFE)

Ensure human factors risks are properly considered during design of plant and equipment.

Acting as the HFE competent person in a project our consultants assist by developing plans and supporting discipline engineers to develop designs that will suit the human operators and maintenance personnel during following commissioning. They can also support and lead specialist human factors analyses and studies where required throughout the project.

Human Factors Engineering (HFE) ensures proper consideration of human factors is integrated into project from start to finish. It brings disciplines together to ensure human factors risks are properly understood so that optimum solutions can be developed.

A key part of HFE in a project is the human factors integration plan. This should be developed as early as possible in a project so that resources can be properly assigned at the appropriate time in the overall plan.  This includes ensuring people with the necessary competencies in HFE and operating experience are involved.

Integrating HFE in projects is expected by many regulators and experience shows that proper consideration of human factors in design has significant long term benefits in terms of safety and reliability.

Task and Human Error Analysis

Identify the most critical operations and maintenance tasks and associated human factors.

Task and Human Error Analysis is a systematic method of identifying the most critical operations and maintenance tasks performed within an organisation; and performing high quality analyses of the most critical to provide a full understanding of the risks and to identify the most effective controls. It is a very tangible and practical method that allows human factors issues to be properly identified and understood .

Indeed, Task and Human Error Anaysis should be one of the first things undertaken by any organisation looking to improve its safety and reliability. Consensus is that the majority of causes of accidents are related to human error but also that most of the time people make a positive contribution to safety and reliability. It is an effective way of ensuring systems are in place to maximise the positive and minimise the negative contributions of human factors in the workplace.

Our wide experience of performing Task and Human Error Analysis across a range of industries and process means we can support efficient and effective analysis, ensuring you get maximum benefit for minimum cost and effort. Our facilitation skills means we can secure active involvement of frontline personnel who can tell us how work is actually performed under all conditions; and where it may sometimes differ from methods documented in procedures or communicated during training. Our approach to applying Task and Human Error Analysis ensures risks are managed properly in practice and improve continuously.

Safety Critical Communication

Supporting effective communicationn to significantly reduce risks.

It is common knowledge that communication between people is prone to error but companies do not always recognise this when they analyse their safety and reliability incidents. However, reference to the Piper Alpha tragedy in which 167 people shows that simple break downs in communication during very normal operational activities such as shift handover and permit to work can be very significant. Also, when things start to go wrong the complexity and uncertainty makes communication particularly difficult  and may contribute to escalation of a small incident to something more serious. Identifying safety critical communication, determining how it happens in practice in all circumstances allows suitable systems to be put in place to manage the risks.

We understand the way people communicate with each other at work and can help you to identify how it affects your safety and reliability. We recognise that communication errors cannot be eliminated but that supporting people to communicate effectively can significantly reduce the risks. Our approach is focussed on systems that are practical to implement, rather than relying on purely behavioural approaches that are far more complex to manage and very difficult to sustain over the longer term.

Incident Analysis

Identify the root cause of human errors to apply effective solutions avoiding the same incident again

Applying our human factors expertise allows the root causes of human errors to be identified so that effective solutions can be put in place so that the same incident does not happen again and applying the learning wider will result in a reduction in overall risks. Also, involving us as an objective and independent participant in the analysis significantly reduces the likelihood of cognitive bias, which is recognised as a reason why learning from incidents is often less effective than it should be.

Human error is often the immediate or direct cause of an incident but it is never the root cause. There are reasons why people make mistakes and failing to recognise this in investigations and follow-up analysis is a key reason why interventions intended to improve safety and reliability are often less effective than hoped. Applying human factors in incident analysis allows the reason why people acted as they did and uncovers the fundamental issues with systems and organisation. This allows true learning to take place that can be applied to achieve fundamental improvements, rather than simply for the incident that occurred. This is particularly the case when information collected over time from incidents and near misses is analysed in a systematic and structured way.

How Can We Support Your Human Factors Engineering Objectives?

Please contact us or complete the form opposite for an informal, no-obligation discussion of your requirements.

From an initial phone call we can often give you an idea of price and time scales.

With subsequent details, we can then send you some solution ideas, scopes of work and a formal quotation.

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