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Health & Safety


The human factor in safety and operations


How to change instinctive and habitual at risk behaviour. David Mallard, Senior Account Manager at DuPont Sustainable Solutions, explains





Supervision is not as good a driver of performance – whether it is safety or operational performance – as changing habitual and instinctive behaviour from the outset


’ 126 FACILITIES


and the well-intentioned efforts of investigations, work accidents still happen at many facilities, and in some cases are repeated in a similar fashion. But the individual is hardly ever solely responsible and the incident hardly ever isolated. Why? Because humans aren’t perfect. Facilities are not simply operated by humans, they are also designed, built and maintained by them. This provides ample opportunity for people to contribute to incidents. And that is why technical solutions, business models, corporate strategy, rules and regulations may help a business to improve its safety and operational performance but are rarely enough in themselves. Fully understanding the many roles humans play at facilities and the factors that influence their decision- making is therefore vital to preventing incidents and to achieving operational excellence if we define operational excellence as minimising risk, eliminating defects and maximising value creation. What is evident from a review of incident reports is a long history of the significant role of human factors in causing incidents. The phrase “human factors” is often used to describe the interaction of individuals with each other, with equipment and facilities, and with management systems. It is also used to describe how such interactions are influenced by a work environment and culture. Understanding and improving “human factors” in causing incidents requires a focus on people’s inherent behaviours, characteristics, needs, abilities and limitations, as well as the development of sustainable and safe working cultures. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of the root causes of incidents and addressing them holistically is key to preventing them effectively. In order to achieve a step change in safety, we have to therefore go beyond the traditional safety management approach. Many at-risk behaviours occur intuitively


D


espite stringent regulations, advanced process automation, safety management systems,


and are the result of experientially-based feelings associated with anticipated outcomes. The key to advancing the effectiveness of safety management practices involves a better understanding of motivational factors and their subsequent impact on decision-making.


The roots of behavioural safety management


Organisations should therefore clearly establish and effectively convey expectations regarding behaviours in the workplace. Secondly, a process should be put in place to monitor actions and behaviours to ensure conformance with standardised work practices. Finally, feedback must be used to reinforce or modify behaviours. But the number of resources and time available to most companies for this has diminished over the past 10 to 20 years and has reduced the feedback process. The effectiveness of this model, when executed as a line function, is further strained when applied to remote, distributed, or self-directed work forces. However, when at-risk behaviours occur without consistent or immediate feedback, the effectiveness of the process is greatly reduced.


The effect of feelings and emotions on behaviour There is now a growing body of research reinforced through recent advances in neuroscience that sheds new light on human behaviour. Feelings and emotions as a primary source of motivation appear to be of increasing importance; a revelation that could offer new insight into why we don’t always follow the rules and may act irrationally. Applied to the workplace, this notion suggests how employees “feel” about a situation may be more representative of subsequent behaviours than what they actually “think”. The notion of a two-track mind, one part logical and rational, the other intuitive and automatic, is not new.


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