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Human Factors

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Human Factors concerns the optimisation of human performance in the workplace.  It considers the working environment from a human-centred viewpoint, looking at the whole system and its influence on the way people behave and interact with the railway.

Human factors capability at RSSB

​RSSB’s human factors (HF) specialists support the rail industry by providing technical input to research, Railway Group Standards, and new systems like ERTMS and GSM-R. RSSB’s HF specialists are also a direct resource for the railway industry, helping companies deal with their own HF issues. Our specialists cover a broad range of topics from cab design to recruitment and selection, visual performance and fatigue. Our HF specialists have helped develop tools and resources for the rail industry, and they run courses to support the industry in developing its skills in, and understanding of HF.  ​Some of our HF skills and expertise are described in a ​series of case studies.​

Human factors and performance

The railway is a technical system, in which people are as much an integral part as any mechanical component. Technical systems are becoming more wide reaching and complex, so it is essential to consider their impact on:

  • Individuals, their knowledge, skills, and abilities
  • The job and the demands placed on people doing the work
  • The organisation and how it employs people as valuable assets that need investment and the systems in place to support the safe and effective operation of the company.

Human factors supports the design of railway systems that optimises performance. Integrating human factors activities at the start of a project can reduce the need for re-design once systems have entered service, reduce the potential for staff turnover and increase productivity for the whole organisation.

Human factors and safety

Human error is often identified as being causal in accidents and incidents, but people rarely make mistakes on purpose. The human factors discipline has a body of knowledge, tools, and techniques to identify:

  • Factors which adversely impact on human performance
  • Potential errors
  • 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 can reduce the potential for error and increase the margin of safety.

Human factors and SPADS

In investigations, knowledge about the role of human factors is still inconsistent and there can be a temptation to focus solely on the train driver and not on the role of underlying causes.

To address this, we reviewed SPADs from a human factors perspective, looking at reports, live investigations, processes, and running workshops with drivers, signallers and managers.  

The review has led to a range of outputs to help organisations improve SPAD investigations.

New guidance, 'How to manage SPAD risk better - a guide for directors' External link aims to provide practical advice to senior industry managers to improve SPAD investigations.  Electronic copies have been sent to operational safety leads in Network Rail and train and freight operating companies by Steve Murphy the Chair of the SPAD Risk Reduction Strategy Group, and Managing Director at MTR Crossrail.

The guide is also available on SPARK, alongside a full report of the 'Industry Human Factors SPAD Review', and a shorter summary report from the workshops.

3rd RSSB Fatigue Risk Management Forum - 15 November 2016

The papers and presentations from this event are now available to download from SPARK External link.

The forum was aimed at people who have responsibility for defining a company’s Safety Management System, attaining safety certificates, monitoring fatigue risk or advising on roster design, occupational health or training related to fatigue. It aimed to provide an opportunity to find out about recent fatigue research, share experiences of fatigue risk management, discuss good practices, challenges and create solutions.

Improving Your Business Through Human Factors

The Human Factors team recently hosted a one day event to showcase the breadth of Human Factors research being undertaken in the Rail Industry.  It demonstrated how the latest HF thinking is advancing safety, efficiency, reliability, and performance across the rail industry.  Presentations covered varied topics from how to design passenger information to support dwell times through to how to incorporate HF thinking into Bow Tie analysis.  The slides from the event can be found here (15 MB).  Posters presented by the RSSB Human Factors team can be downloaded here (16 MB).

This document is hosted on SPARK

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