Human factors are the factors that affect – both positively and negatively – people at work. It revolves around understanding the interaction between people and these factors in order to develop equipment, cultures, tools, systems, and processes that can improve work environments by increasing safety, reducing errors, and increasing productivity and efficiency.
By mastering human factors and minimising human error, you can avoid illnesses, major accidents, and poor well-being in the workplace – all of which can cost you dearly in terms of money, reputation, and resources in the long run.
The term definition that we prefer in Green-Jakobsen goes like this:
“Human factors refer to environmental, organisational, technology, task design and human and individual characteristics, which influence behaviour at work in a way which can affect health and safety.”
This definition takes into account which factors influence human behaviour putting it into a work context and relating it to health and safety. These are both important for human factors, at least in the context we are working. In other words, they are the factors/things/circumstances around us that influence ‘the way we do something’/our behaviour.
An important part of working with human factor management is reviewing human factors. If you do not review the human factors, you are not able to discuss them and, therefore, not able to adapt your work processes and mindset.
By mastering the human factor review, you also develop a proactive safety culture, which can ensure ‘the human potential’ in many other areas.
When reviewing the human factors via a questionnaire, the right questions must be asked in order to guide the seafarers’ attention and focus to the right areas, so that they will be able to provide constructive feedback. For example, ask what has gone badly and what has gone well recently? In the future, how can they avoid those bad situations, and how can they keep doing more of what is going well?
Based on the questionnaire answers – in Safety Delta the Crew Safety Diagnosis report is generated – the crew can have an open dialogue where they can try to find solutions to the problems. We need to talk honestly and openly about the problems before we can find solutions to them. It requires the right circumstances and framework to be present, which the Delta concept allows for.
Since the crew are the ones who actually experience the human factors, they should also be the ones who review them, have the dialogue about them in order to find solutions to the problems, then optimise them afterwards. After all, the crew works with these factors every single day, so there is no one better to figure all this out.
Very importantly, the solutions that the crew come up with must be implemented.
All of this is a circular process – meaning that it is something that you constantly have to do on a regular basis, and something that you will never finish. There are constant changes in conditions, including the crew, work structure, technology and situation, which means that there is a constant need to adjust and improve human factors so everything can run, as intended, at all times.
This is why the Safety Delta cycle is repeated two to three times per year. In this way it makes it possible for the crew to review, discuss and develop different safety areas through out the year and after a period of time it is possible to see the improvements from the annual reports that are generated and presented each year.