06th Dec, 2019 Read time 4 minutes

A brief overview of HSG48

HSG48 is a guidance piece for managers and health and safety professionals. The publication is focused on the idea of human factors in health and safety and how to reduce errors and encourage better behaviour. The publication was developed and published by the Health and Safety Executive in 1999.

Behavioural safety focuses on the individual, and how the way they approach their work can be optimised for the betterment of the whole companies health and safety. HSG48 provides guidance on how organisations can manage behavioural safety in a more efficient manner.

Human error can take on many forms and can be defined in a number of different ways depending on the situation. The following diagram points out the differences between skills-based and mistake errors.



Human Error Digram

© Nopsema.org


The HSG48 guidance looks specifically at behavioural safety. This can include the behaviour of individuals within the organisation but also the company’s attitude to behaviour as a whole.

Click here to download an illustrated diagram of human error


What are the key sections of HSG 48?

The different chapters of HSG48 (Health and Safety Guidance 48) break down some of the key aspects of behavioural safety, we’ve highlighted these below.


Chapter 1: What are ‘human factors’?

Chapter 1 discusses the human factors that should be considered when developing a health and safety strategy. The model in the book proposes three aspects that influence these factors; individual, organisational, and the job at hand.

The book recommends that you consider human factors when conducting risk assessments and other HSE activities and involve the workforce throughout the process.


Chapter 2: Understanding human failure

The second chapter of HSG48 looks at the theory behind understanding human error. The chapter puts forward two main types of human error; errors and violations. Errors include actions and results that were not intended which involved a deviation from an acceptable standard. A violation is a deviation from a set rule or procedure.


Chapter 3: Designing for people

This chapter of HSG48 looks at the design of workplace equipment and how it impacts on the quality of work. The design of a job can relate to the physical environment such as ergonomics and more meta-issues like job design and its relation to health and wellbeing in the workplace.


Chapter 4: Managing the influences on human performance

Chapter 4 of HSG48 looks at how you should manage the various influences on human performance in the workplace. The section is particularly useful for those looking to gain more insight into how shift work impacts on health and safety as well as personal performance.


Chapter 5: Getting started

The penultimate chapter of HSG48 looks at the steps you as an employer can take in order to start implementing better management of human behaviour in the workplace. The section goes through how to start carrying out better risk assessments with a view to human factors and human error.


Chapter 6:

The final chapter of the HSG48 guidance offers a look into the various case studies that are applying its principles. The different examples include a shoe manufacturer and a petroleum company amongst others.


Using HSG48 in your organisation

Whilst HSG48 was published in 1999 many of the concepts discussed in the document are still relevant today with many organisations now considering a behavioural approach to health and safety in their management of risk.

It is useful for helping health and safety managers to properly consider human factors within their management process. Whilst human factors cover a broad spectrum of challenges, HSG48 gives practical ways of approaching and tackling certain issues that may arise which can help to lessen fears.



Useful resources on HSG 48 

Here we have linked some of the links that those wishing to learn more about HSG48 may find useful:

Human factors in behavioural safety: https://www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/topics/behaviouralintor.htm

Managing human failure: https://www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/topics/humanfail.htm

Human failure: aid memoir: https://www.hse.gov.uk/humanfactors/topics/types.pdf

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