Human Factors in Risk Assessment

HF in risk assessment is about considering where people’s actions could go wrong in a task leading to serious consequences, the factors that make this more likely, and how to reduce risk. Human factors is implicit in the risk assessment process, where understanding of how the human interacts with the task is important to minimise risks. The risk assessment process should identify those tasks with the greatest risk, and this is where consideration of HF is particularly important.

The following points are important HF consideration in Risk Assessment:

  • Ensure the task is fully understood
  • Incorporate the operators and their knowledge
  • Consider human errors that could occur in a task AND the Performance Influencing Factors (PIFs) which make them likely (see Slide 9)
  • Work through the Hierarchy of Control when implementing control measures – don’t just rely on procedural changes.

Walk through / talk through is an approach which you probably use already in some form, and this can be modified to take account of HF aspects:

1. Conduct a Walk-Through Talk-Through at the worksite, one task at a time with operational personnel that are competent to undertake the task being analysed.

2. Identify the key steps in a task, discuss what can go wrong with each step, and under what conditions mistakes are more likely. If possible, take photos.

3. Discuss how errors or confusing situations would typically be dealt with.

4. Document your findings and any images in the WTTT Template

5. Review findings and make recommendations for improvement where applicable through the usual channels.


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"It is vital that when completing a risk assessment due care and attention is paid to any Human Factors issues. These should be considered as equally as a potential process failure - as both have the possibility to cause incidents. Inclusion of the three P’s Person, Process and Plant will give a well rounded view of the task and consider risk elements from all directions. Careful consideration of the human factor within a task will allow robust controls to be put into place in order to prevent the human error from occurring and having the possibility of escalating into an incident."

Featured Resources

Human Factors in Risk Assessment - Regulatory Requirements

Regulator Guide - Offshore

  • A formal process should be in place for SCTA
  • A full range of tasks should be identified through a variety of different methods and there should be a way of prioritising these.
  • The HF analysis should include task analysis, error guidewords, potential consequences and performance influencing factors.
  • For human errors with greatest safety risk, error reduction measures should be identified which are based on the hierarchy of control.
  • Consideration should be given to improving performance influencing factors which have been identified.
  • Analysis should be carried out by suitably trained and experienced people.
  • Representatives from the workforce need to be involved in the process.

Onshore COMAH

  • Developed, and is implementing, a clear, written standard that defines how HF will be integrated into MAH risk assessment.
  • Adopted a structured methodology for undertaking HRA on COMAH-critical tasks, in line with relevant good practice. Key elements of the HRA methodology include task analysis, error guidewords, potential consequences and performance influencing factors.
  • Control measures are matched to different types of human error.
  • Active involvement of front-line personnel who perform the tasks being analysed (with support from facilitators who are competent to undertake HRA).
  • Identified the full range of COMAH-critical tasks at the establishment having identified/documented all MAH scenarios.
  • Prioritised COMAH-critical tasks at the establishment, taking account of the nature and level of human involvement/interaction, as well as the consequence of human failure.
  • Used HRA to evaluate and optimise maintenance, inspection and testing specific PIFs.
  • Identified additional control measures that target human performance and has developed action plans with realistic timescales for implementation.


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