Human Factors – definition, understanding and management

Human Factors – Introduction

Human Factors is a collective term for psychological, cognitive and social influencing factors that act between human and technical system components. The focus is on human performance with all its capabilities and limitations, which have an impact on action in the relationship between human as well as between humans and machines.

In civil aviation, structured discussion of human factors began in the early 1970s. Nevertheless, it took a few serious aircraft accidents (e.g. the Tenerife crash of two fully occupied jumbo jets in 1977) to draw widespread conclusions from the knowledge already available (human errors). Since the 1980s, periodic human factors training has been a legal standard in aviation – worldwide. This applies not only to pilots and cabin crew, but also to air traffic controllers and maintenance personnel.

Aviation can thus look back on more than 30 years of practical experience in the field of human factors management. During this time, not only have the methods and tools for controlling human factors been continuously improved. Special features with regard to target group and company-specific requirements were also identified. This success is reflected in figures. Currently, there are about three serious accidents for every million flights worldwide. In industrialized countries, the rate is even significantly lower. The execution of Human Factors training and work concepts contributes to aviation’s success today as a high performance organization and is perceived as such by the public. No other industry has lower error rates.

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Human Factors Part 145 Training / E-Learning

  • 210 Minutes (Initial) or 90 min. (Refresher)
  • Video animated clips with sound
  • Certificate is sent automatically after passing the test
  • Saves working time compared to 1-day face-to-face training
  • Incl. all requirements of EASA Part 145

Human Factors Education & Training

Human factors training, which is mandatory in aviation, aims to address the findings that contribute to the understanding of human errors among the people involved at all operational levels. In this way, indirect and direct causes and consequences of human errors are identified at the same time, thus enabling safer and more effective work performance. The 12 biggest human hazards (Dirty Dozen) that cause faulty work execution and other causes of Human Errors can be found in the following post.

Human Factors Iceberg Model

The goal is to make employees aware of all kind of errors, in order to prevent major errors by reducing minor ones (iceberg model). This requires, on the one hand, raising employee awareness and, above all, establishing a company organization that:

  • takes into account human performance, capabilities and limitations,
  • has structures in place within the scope of work execution that are capable of minimizing human error,
  • has training and continuing education structures in place that raise awareness of the “human factor” issue and thus also make any weaknesses in the aforementioned mechanisms visible.

In aviation, human factors trainings are mandatory for all personnel whose decisions influence airworthiness. This includes not only pilots, cabin crew and air traffic controllers, but also managers such as accountable managers, production managers, shift supervisors and administrative personnel such as planners, engineers, quality management personnel and production personnel in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance.

With regard to training frequency, the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) sets a period of two years, unless special operational or non-operational events or occurrences require a higher training intensity.

Human Factors + Error Prevention Outside of Aviation

In the day-to-day operations of companies and public authorities, misconduct fortunately ends far more unspectacularly than in aviation and takes place beyond the public eye. Every one of us is familiar with these minor errors: an order was not processed or was processed too late, a customer commitment was forgotten, a supplier was not commissioned or internally important messages were not forwarded in time. Such mistakes cost time and money. In addition, they can worsen customer satisfaction and, in the event of repetition, worsen the company’s own reputation. This is all the more annoying because most incidents are easily preventable.

In order to reduce the consequences of technical and human errors and thus contribute to an improvement in process stability and the performance of the entire organization, Human Factors activities should be geared towards this:

  • align the work environment with the needs of the employee,
  • Clearly and transparently distribute tasks and responsibilities among employees as well as between humans and machines, while at the same time
  • Identify the risks at the interfaces and make them visible to employees in their work environment.

Such measures make an effective contribution to making organizations more successful and resistant to errors. Companies establish powerful protective mechanisms by means of systematic human factors measures to prevent incidents and “crashes”. Within the framework of the Swiss cheese model, this mechanism of action is visualized. The organizational structure with its different levels is represented by cheese slices, while the system weaknesses are symbolized by the cheese holes. With the methods and tools offered by AeroImpulse, organizations can reduce the deficiencies in their organizational structures and thus plug the holes in the Swiss cheese model.

Human Factors Swiss Cheese Model

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