Understanding human factors helps improve safety

The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) has been studying, testing and developing a human factors tool for several years in air traffic management, the nuclear energy industry, the maritime sector, aviation maintenance, the railway sector, and most recently, the construction industry. The HF Tool™ helps both personnel and management obtain a better understanding of the human factor-related causes of incidents and to improve work processes. Dr Anna-Maria Teperi, Senior Researcher at FIOH will present the related research results in the Vision Zero Summit in Helsinki on 12.11.2019.

Vision Zero Summit 2019, Helsinki, Press release 49/2019

“Interventions applying the holistic Human Factors (HF) perspective have facilitated a more analytical understanding and positive view of safety as human action as well as more open discussion at workplaces. They make the new Safety approach – Safety II – more concrete,” explains Dr Anna-Maria Teperi, Senior Researcher at FIOH.

Thanks to FIOH’s contribution, the HF Tool™ has been applied and tested in the nuclear energy industry, the maritime sector, aviation maintenance and the railway sector.  In Finland, applying HF to safety management is currently mandatory in these safety-critical fields.

New safety mindset spreading to construction sites and other industries

“The new safety perspective, which focuses on human variety and human action, can also be applied in other industries as well as the health and social sector. The HF Toolis currently being tested in the construction industry,” informs Teperi.

Even though the number of accidents in the Finnish construction industry has fallen, most accidents still occur on construction sites, and many are even fatal (2017 eight fatal accidents and 2018 four, Source: Workers compensation center).

– The tool is specifically used in the construction industry to improve occupational safety. Because this industry has many subcontractors, a fifth level has been added to the tool for subcontractors and partners.

Many benefits of the HF Tool™

The reported benefits of the HF Tool™ are a better understanding of human variability in operations and a shift of focus from errors and risks to the positive potential of people. It enables a more analytical evaluation and perception of the human contribution as not only individual actions, but also as actions at the work, group, organizational and system levels, especially during incident investigations. Several organizational levels and system partners are committed to HF actions in safety management activities, supporting open discussions and trust as key factors for anticipating accidents. HF thinking and the toolkit have created an understanding of and reflection on human performance as part of a system.

We are currently collecting further evidence of the effect of HF toolkits for the air traffic and railway sector, where the tool has been in use for many years.

A change in safety culture requires dedication and competence

At least five aspects are essential for the proper implementation of safety improvements

  • anticipation, dedication, motivation and competence
  • a participative approach
  • a focus on factors that work well (successes)
  • commitment at all organizational levels
  • systemic, collaborative orientation

Vision Zero (VZ) is a prevention and commitment strategy for safe work without fatal or serious occupational diseases or accidents. National and international actions have been the sharing of good practices through networking. The latest safety research has introduced a new view (Safety II), which focuses on human variety and the success factors behind safety. The HF perspective, in its modern, broad definition, may offer further potential to enrich Vision Zero. Whether through Vision Zero’s seven golden rules or the Safety II perspective, in order to realize targets we need practical programmes, processes, practices and tools.

The Vision Zero Summit 2019 is an international conference that welcomes experts, researchers and company representatives from over 30 countries to discuss and gather new ideas on Vision Zero thinking. The Summit will be held in Helsinki on 12–14 November at the Clarion Hotel Helsinki. It is organized by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (FIOH) with the support of its partners. FIOH has been involved in developing the Vision Zero thinking and Zero Accident Forum – now the Finnish Vision Zero Forum – founded in 2003 to help workplaces promote safety and health. The Summit is also a side event of Finland’s EU presidency.

Additional information:
Anna-Maria Teperi, Chief researcher, Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, tel. +358 43 825 7454, anna-maria.teperi[at]ttl.fi,  Twitter @AnnaMariaTeperi

See also

Human factors in safety – efficiency and operability (Pro HF) 2019-2020

HF Tool™ (in Finnish)

Modern safety learning for the construction industry – MoSaC (2018-2020)

Press invitation
Attachment Figure 1. Evolving paradigms of safety management and HF perspective




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