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Alarm handling (or alarm management) is an issue for any site or process where there is claimed reliance on human response to an alarm to control major accident hazards. This can range from sites with a small number of alarms (e.g. small storage sites) up to sites with a central control room and a fully distributed control system (DCS). The principle is the same though - assuring the human response to alarms through e.g. good interface and system design, monitoring and review; competency arrangements; procedures.

Behavioural Safety

Behavioural safety is an approach which tries to promote safe behaviours and prevent unsafe behaviours. It can be described as the way organisations 'live' or 'act out' their safety systems i.e. the factors that determine how systems operate in reality. It includes safety culture, safety leadership and behaviour modification. Behavioural safety programmes typically involve observation of workplace practices followed up by individual feedback and reinforcement of good practices.

Competence and Training

Training and competence are about establishing, developing and maintaining technical and non-technical knowledge and skills to be able to carry out particular roles. Of particular interest is the training and competence for those who have responsibilities for managing major accident hazards / safety critical activities. One of the key HF considerations is the management system for training / competence and how this ensures that the right people have the right skills at the right time for safety critical activities. The aim is to ensure people have the required competence to carry out these tasks safely.

Critical Communications

Safety critical communications is concerned about how the risk of communication failure is managed. The focus is on understanding the reliability of these communication channels to ensure all safety critical information is transferred, that it is understood and that the opportunity for misinterpretation is minimised. This includes communication during shift and crew handovers, permit to work systems and tasks which place reliance on accurate communications such as crane and boat operations.


HF in design is a broad topic but in this context refers to consideration of human abilities and limitations in the design of work equipment, plant and systems. The aim is to minimise the potential for human error and therefore improve safety. The integration of HF in design in an offshore context will usually be through a modification or a project. Examples include modifications to plant, equipment, control rooms, local controls and displays, valves etc. When changes are made with the inclusion of human factors then tasks will be easier and safer, but without HF then the new design itself could create a scenario where errors will happen, e.g. poorly designed graphics on a display.


Fatigue simply means tiredness. When we are tired, we are much more likely to make mistakes. Fatigue is generally a feeling of tiredness and being unable to perform work effectively. A fatigued person will be less alert, less able to process information, will have a slower reaction time and less interest in working, compared to a person who is not fatigued. Fatigue risk management ensures that shift patterns, working hours and other factors that influence fatigue are controlled so not to affect the performance of those in safety critical roles.

HF in Incident Investigations

This topic is about making sure that human factors are properly considered in understanding and learning from incidents. This should be done by looking at the incident from the perspective of those involved and building an understanding of why their actions and decisions made sense to them at the time. It is also necessary to take account of the context, situation and organisational factors which influenced behaviours, such as design, supervision, procedures and communications. This approach helps to avoid hindsight bias which focuses more on what was not done and can lead to blaming individuals which blocks learning. Assessment of how organisational factors drive behaviour will reveal underlying causes which offer the best opportunity for improvement.

Learning from Normal Work

We do not need to wait for an incident to occur to learn lessons, improve our safety, and prevent future incidents. Each day, workers in the oil and gas industry go to work, perform their regular duties, and encounter challenges to which they adapt and overcome, all without incident. Valuable and actionable lessons about safety can be found in the everyday work, and these lessons can be used to develop more effective safety controls and reduce risks. We can and should learn from 'normal work'.

Organisational Change

Organisational change can cover a variety of changes in an organisation. This can range from minor changes to supervision arrangements, changes to staffing levels, and changes in roles / responsibilities etc. to bigger changes such as combining departments or even company mergers / acquisitions. The key issue is the identification of how the changes could affect safety, particularly the control of major accident hazards. Excessive workload, gaps in competencies, problems with team-work, unclear priorities and low morale can all be signs of poor management of organisational change.


Procedures, including method statements, work instructions, permits to work etc, are agreed safe ways of doing things. They usually consist of instructions and related information needed to help carry out tasks safely. Procedures need to be written so they can be easily interpreted and followed and are practical. In other words, they need to be designed with input from the person who will use the procedure. Problems with procedures can lead to difficulties in carrying out tasks and may contribute to incidents. However, often there can be too much reliance placed on procedures to control risk. Operating procedures may not be the best way of controlling hazards, at least not as the sole defence against human error.

Risk Assessment

Human factors in risk assessment is about considering when, where and how people might get something wrong when carrying out a task, i.e. where mistakes could happen in the task. Of most concern is where a mistake could lead to a major consequence and that step in the task relies entirely on the human; there are no other barriers. It is also necessary to consider the context or situation factors which could cause the error, such as unclear communications, confusing design, and ambiguous procedures. Consideration of HF in risk assessments will allow suitable controls to be developed which can reduce the risk from error.

Staffing and Workload

Workload can refer to the physical or mental effort required to carry out a task. Workload is often thought about in terms of having the capacity to carry out all the required work on a day to day basis. Staffing level is concerned with ensuring a suitable number and type of personnel are available to carry out the work. High workload and inadequate staffing have been shown to have negative effects on fatigue and decision making and have been cited as contributing factors in major incidents. Organisations should ensure adequate staffing levels in order to effectively manage workload.