Human factors and Homer Simpson

Human Factors 101 - Making it easy for Homer to do the right thing.

What is human factors? Do you have difficulty explaining the topic to others? And what value does human factors add? This article examines the factors that might influence a control room operator’s behaviour (Homer Simpson) and how we might improve his human reliability.

These ‘Performance Influencing Factors’ are key to optimising human performance. The post provides a definition of human factors: “making it easy for Homer to do the right thing”.

Smartphone addiction: Why do we love them so much?

distracted driver - humanfactors101.com

Each year, thousands of people are killed in road accidents due to drivers being distracted by their mobile phone. Despite awareness campaigns, people continue to use their smartphones whilst driving. This article outlines some of the reasons why smartphones can be addictive and provides some practical tips to help manage the relationship we have with our devices.

Chernobyl: The drama

Chernobyl - human error - safety culture - design

This article was prompted by the 2019 television drama series ‘Chernobyl’, and focuses on human error, safety culture and designing for safety. It provides some discussion points to engage with your key stakeholders and to facilitate safety moments.

Leadership: Delivering the impossible

Leadership in today's NHS: Delivering the impossible

The UK NHS (National Health Service), like healthcare in other countries, is a complex system. It is one of the largest employers in the world – some NHS Trusts employ around 20,000 staff and have a turnover of more than £1 billion. The NHS is not a single organisation – there are many parts that make up the NHS. However, these components do not operate as separate entities, they are interconnected and work together as a system. This creates challenges for those that lead these organisations. A recent report on leadership by The King’s Fund: “Leadership in today’s NHS: Delivering the impossible” questions whether senior leadership roles in the NHS are still “do-able”.

Death by design

Christine - humanfactors101.com

Could you be killed by a car tonight? You’re perhaps thinking that I’m referring to a road traffic accident – as an occupant in a vehicle, or maybe as a pedestrian or cyclist. But there’s another way that you could be killed by a car tonight – YOUR car in fact.  And this isn’t a reference to the Stephen King novel “Christine”, about a car apparently possessed by supernatural forces. This article examines how a technological change has led to tragedy. Please share this “safety moment” with family, friends and colleagues.

Working memory: A user’s guide

Memory - human factors

How do we “think”? And what’s the role of Working Memory in thinking?

Little has been written about Working Memory in relation to human performance in the workplace – and so in this article I introduce the concept of working memory, discuss why it’s important and provide some advice on managing it’s limitations.

Fatal distraction

Around the world, children die from hyperthermia every year after parents unintentionally left them in a hot vehicle, often for a full day. This article examines these tragedies from a human factors perspective, and provides some tips to prevent it happening to your family.

It also asks whether we can learn from these events to improve human performance in the workplace.

Your mobile phone could kill you

park the phone - human-factors-101

A significant proportion of road accidents involve driver distraction. Many drivers admit to making calls, reading or writing messages, and checking social media whilst driving.

Using mobile phones can cause drivers to take their eyes off the road, their hands off the steering wheel, and their minds off the road and the surrounding situation. This article outlines how using a mobile can affect driving behaviours, and increase crash risk (even if using a hands-free device).

Keep it simple

Keep it simple

Discusses the relationship between complexity and system failures. The author of The Nimrod Review, The Hon. Mr Justice Haddon-Cave, states that simplicity is your friend and complexity is your enemy.

Change is the only constant

Organisational change and disaster

Organisational change is inevitable, but does it have to lead to disaster? Whatever it is that defines ‘safety’ for your organisation, whether that is keeping chemicals in the pipes, keeping trains on the tracks, airplanes in the sky, or not harming patients; it is essential that any significant organisational changes are assessed for their impact on safety. This will include assessing changes to: roles and responsibilities, organisational structures, reporting relationships, staffing levels, staff location, outsourcing, use of contractors, delayering, downsizing and centralisation of functions. This article discusses two aspects of any change that need to be assessed and managed.

Normalisation of deviance

Normalisation of deviance

“Normalisation of deviance” is when deviations from agreed standards or working practices become incorporated into the routine. Small changes, slight deviations from the norm, gradually become the norm.

Here’s some guidance on identifying and managing such deviations before they become the new ‘normal’.