28th Nov, 2019 Read time 2 minutes

Human factors in a health and safety context

When you look beyond health and safety from a compliance standpoint the main challenge in reducing the rate of incidents is influencing and managing the human factors that can contribute to a safe workforce. This is where some of the finer aspects of human behaviour come into play. Here are some of the key human factors to monitor in your workplace.

Individual Factors

One of the most complex and hardest to manage areas of human factor management is in the individual themselves. These factors can vary from physical and mental health to variations in work knowledge, personality and experience. When managing these factors look at how the job and its design can help in areas which may improve the role from a safety perspective.

Some areas of human factor management can’t be changed, like personality, but individual knowledge and attitudes towards work can be developed over time. Doing this from an HSE perspective will help in instilling safe practices in your workforce. It must be stated that you should also consider the mental health of your employees when looking to train them into certain roles.


Organisational Factors

Moving on from individual factors many different aspects of organisational behaviour are vitally important when it comes to health and safety. Work patterns, attitude to risk and general workplace culture can lead to the development of poor practices which may result in both serious and minor health and safety incidents.

Changes in human organisations can be made however the process should be stratified. Introducing incremental changes to the workplace such as a new safety management policy or a change in roles and responsibility will cause a lot of friction if they are introduced in one instance.


Job Factors

Job factors are more specific than organisational as they focus on specific roles within an organisation. Issues include the workload, work equipment design and the nature of the task. In general, workers try to adapt to the job rather than the other way round, but this can have serious implications for their long term health.

Ergonomic factors are extremely important in terms of job factors. If employees alter their work behaviour due to discomfort it can lead to miss placed items and incorrectly operated machinery. As such it is important to involve workers in the correct design of their workplace procedures.


Some of the positive outcomes of human factor management

Organisations are made up of people and managing the associated human factors can have a number of benefits. These can range from increased productivity to a reduction in the number of serious incidents.

To some extent, it doesn’t matter how robust the process you put in place for health and safety management is, if the person following it is not in the right mental state to perform their job it may well lead to a major incident.

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