Human factors and performance
Technical systems are becoming more wide reaching and complex. The railway is a technical system, in which people are as much an integral part as any mechanical component. To support the safe and effective operation of railway companies it is essential to consider the impact of technical systems on:
- The knowledge, skills, and abilities of individuals
- The demands placed on employees doing the job
- The organisation and the systems in place to support the safe and effective operation of the company
HF supports the design of railway systems that optimise performance. Integrating HF activities early in the lifecycle of a design or development project can reduce the need for re-design, reduce staff turnover and increase productivity for the organisation on the whole.
Human factors and safety
The cause of accidents and incidents is often attributed to human error. However, people rarely make such mistakes on purpose. The HF discipline provides a body of knowledge, tools, and techniques to identify:
- Factors which adversely impact human performance
- Potential errors that may occur
- Solutions to minimise the impact of human errors
The application of human factors knowledge can significantly reduce the likelihood of an accident or incident and any subsequent loss to property, or human life.
Human factors capability at RSSB
RSSB’s HF specialists support the rail industry by contributing to research, Railway Group Standards, and new systems like The European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). RSSB’s HF team consists of qualified ergonomists and psychologists, with a wealth of experience gained from safety critical industries such as rail, road, aviation and oil and gas. These specialists are also a direct resource for the rail industry, helping companies deal with their HF issues. Our unique position within the rail industry means that we have the knowledge and experience necessary to provide diverse and exclusive set of skills. This allows us to effectively support our members in identifying and understanding how a HF approach can help them.
Our specialists cover a broad range of topics from cab design to recruitment and selection, route knowledge, decision making and fatigue. They also run courses to support the industries workforce develop and better understand HF. RSSB’s HF skills and expertise are well demonstrated in a series of case studies.
Human factors toolkit
RSSB’s specialists have created the HF toolkit page which provides a range of guidance, tools, products and services to help companies manage HF. These resources have been split in to seven key topic areas which encapsulate the key work that we do.
Adopt a Human Factors approach
A good place to start when adopting a HF approach is RSSB’s Understanding Human Factors guide. This was created for designers, suppliers, managers, supervisors, trainers and health & safety (H&S) staff who work in the railway industry. Its main purpose is to answer the question, what practical advice can a human factors approach offer railway staff without requiring them to be experts in the subject?
Furthermore, RSSB’s past and ongoing research projects can be accessed in the human factors library available on SPARK. These can be conveniently navigated by topic area including human performance, selection and training, health, human reliability and culture. These resources are a good place to start and there to provide a better understanding and application of HF in rail.