Human Factors - Learning from Normal Work

For years, safety professionals have been learning lessons about what contributed to incidents only after they occurred. Although this resulted in many improvements, waiting for an incident to happen to learn from it, limits our ability to prevent incidents. The “Learning from Normal Work” culture transformation toolkit offers a new perspective and a set of practical tools on learning about the precursors of incidents when nothing goes wrong. By exploring how people complete the work by adapting to varying challenges and conditions (i.e., learning from everyday work), we can find ways to introduce more effective controls and reduce risk.

Learning from normal work is about proactively looking into things that make the work difficult before they contribute to incidents. The idea of learning from normal work is based on the following principles:

  • Things go wrong for mostly the same reasons as things go right.
  • There are a number of constraints which affect how people do work.
  • Work is always variable and people must be allowed to adapt in order to get work done successfully.
  • People carry out work as they do because it makes sense at the time in the context which they are faced with.
  • Work as imagined (in a plan or procedure for example) is never the same as work in reality.

Human Factors Forum - 19 April

Join the April forum where Human Factors and Human Performance will be discussed.

Click here to book your place


"To support learning from normal work:

Include those closest to the work - spend time in the field engaging people doing the job

Talk to people who support the frontline. Understand constraints experienced by supervisors, planners engineers, and others.

See normal work, which may include near misses, mistakes, non-conformances, workarounds, improvisations and adaptations as the primary opportunity to learn.

Understand goals, plans and expectations in context.

Instead of first digging deep to identify the cause, look at the system more widely to consider the system conditions and interactions."

Featured Film - Operationalising Human Performance

In this film, learn what is Normal Work, why it is important and see a real example how it helped to eliminate the risk of a life changing injury. Delivered at the 2020 COS Forum, this award-winning presentation by Dr Marcin Nazaruk and Bert Winders of Baker Hughes showcases how Learning from Normal Work helped to take incident prevention efforts to the next level.

Featured Resources

Human Factors Learning from Normal Work - Regulatory Requirements

Regulator Guide - Offshore

  • Not applicable

Onshore COMAH

  • Not applicable


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