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Human factors

Human factors is a scientific discipline that applies systematic, evidence-based methods and knowledge about people to design, evaluate and improve the interaction between people, systems (including technology and equipment) and organisations.

Understanding the role of human factors helps us to:

  • design better controls and feedback systems for equipment operators
  • develop better training or procedures based on an understanding common communication breakdowns or errors
  • identify underlying causes of accidents e.g. an operator may have an accident because he is fatigued due to too much overtime - but the system allowed extended overtime without sufficient monitoring

What does Human Factors cover?

Human factors professionals are concerned with a number of factors that are grouped under these headings:

  • the work and workplace - what people are asked to do (task/environment/equipment/systems)
  • people - who is doing it (competence/expectations/capability
  • organisation - how is the work organised, communicated, and managed (leadership/resources/communication/culture)


(c)WorkSafeBC. Adapted with permission for DNRM.

In some cases the role of human factors is more reactive (e.g. in reviewing human factors issues during or after an incident or accident). For example, human factors expertise has been used in aviation accident investigations, rail accident investigations and major organisation accidents such as Bhopal and the BP Texas refinery explosion.

What could Human Factors offer Qld Mining?

The mining industry is similar to other high risk industries who use safety management systems, with many equipment maintenance and operation issues or errors also common to a number of industries. Previous mining projects have identified that there is a role for human factors knowledge in the design of equipment, systems and procedures. There was still a limited understanding of the role of Human Factors in mining incidents, and Queensland Mines and Energy approached Clemson University in the United States to review Queensland Mining incidents and accidents. Clemson University researchers used HFACS (Human Factors Analysis and Classification System) developed for aviation as a model system for identifying human factors issues in Queensland Mining.

HFACS-MI Project

HFACS was the basis of the analysis of Queensland Mining incidents and accidents, but a number of changes were made to make the classification system mining specific. The result is HFACS-MI (Mining Industry), a tailored application of human factors causes of error in mining incidents.

Further information on Human Factors outside mining

The content of the information and presentations on this web page or the external websites do not necessarily reflect the views of the Department.

Information on all aspects of human factors from other industries, with relevance to mining can be found at the HSE Human Factors website:

HSE have some good fact sheets on topics such as shift handover and human factors or organisational factors in major incidents.

Human Factors Safety Bulletins and other information on human factors in industrial incidents and accidents can be found at WorkSafe BC. This includes a number of plain english Human Factors Bulletins and incident investigations.



Last updated 29 May 2012

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