Human Factors Are Integral to Project Design

By Adam Wilson 6 May 2014

The human factor needs to be considered at the beginning of projects and not as an afterthought, according to presenters at the 2014 Offshore Technology Conference in Houston. Six papers that examined the role of human factors in offshore projects were presented Monday morning at the “Human Factors in Engineering” technical session.

“We can relate about 80% of accidents and incidents in the marine industries to human error. It is very important that we get involved and that we get involved very early in the design,” said Julie Pray, senior engineer in safety and human factors at ABS. Pray presented her paperImplementing Human Factors Engineering in Offshore Installation Design.

But having the human factor considered during the planning phase of a project is not always easy. Benjamin Poblete, chief consultant at Atkins, said, “It’s always difficult because what happens is (the human factor) is often sold as a separate issue, a separate thing, which is like what HSE (health, safety, and environment) was. … It took us 20-some-odd years to get back in to it, and I think human factors has to do the same thing. It has to blend right in so that they’re speaking your language during design. … We have to get in early.” Poblete presented his paper Human Factors in Hazard Analysis.

The industry has a way to go to integrate human factors in the front-end engineering and design of projects, but tracking the human factors of accidents is an important step.

“I don’t think, in the offshore industry, that we’re even remotely close to where we should be in human factors,” said D.M.A. “Dave” Hollaway, human factors engineering manager at ABS Consulting, while presenting his paper Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS): Investigatory Tool for Human Factors in Offshore Operational Safety.

Hollaway went on to build on the axiom “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” The HFACS outlined in the paper he was presenting was designed to do just that—measure the human factors involved in a project. The system uses a set of user-defined codes to categorize and analyze errors that have led to accidents. It’s free to download and designed to be simple to use. “It’s not so complicated that the average HSE or human factors person couldn’t use it,” Hollaway said.

Brian Craig, professor at Lamar University, presented another paper concerned with tracking human factors, in this instance in the form of reported near-miss incidents. His paper, Reporting Practices for Close Call (Near Miss) Reporting Systems, presented the creation of a database of 44,000 of these incidents. “Basically, we’re looking to identify best practices based on what the industry is currently doing,” he said. “One of the goals of these projects is to share this data, these lessons learned, and corrective actions across the industry.”

The creation of the database is part of a larger safety initiative that has as one of its goals the standardization of how near misses are reported.

The other papers presented during the session were Art, Science, and Engineering of Managing Offshore Field Development Economics and Risks and Jack-St. Malo Marine Operator Training Simulator. All of the papers are available via OnePetro at the links below:

Paper 25130: Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS): Investigatory Tool for Human Factors in Offshore Operational Safety

Paper 25167: Implementing Human Factors Engineering in Offshore Installation Design

Paper 25078: Reporting Practices for Close Call (Near Miss) Reporting Systems

Paper 25280: Human Factors in Hazard Analysis

Paper 25344: Art, Science, and Engineering of Managing Offshore Field Development Economics and Risks

Paper 25125: Jack-St. Malo Marine Operator Training Simulator

Adam Wilson is the Special Publications Editor for the Journal of Petroleum Technology.