In November 2019 HFL Consulting was acquired by SLR, a global leader in environmental and advisory solutions.

SLR has a team of over 1800 professionals delivering advice and support from a network of offices across Europe, Asia-Pacific, Africa, Canada, the USA and Latin America. Our expanded service offering means we can provide a unique blend of leadership, management, consulting, engineering and training services to businesses of all sizes across the process and allied industries. We can draw on many more ‘in house’ skills and services, including process, civil and structural engineering, environmental permitting and compliance, air quality, flood risk, ecology, acoustics and wastewater treatment.

HFL Consulting (now part of SLR)

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Human Factors is one of the HSE’s hot topics for high hazard sites; however many companies are only just starting to consider them. In order to address this, we embarked on an ambitious Human Factors benchmarking programme for the process industry.

Many COMAH sites are asking these questions about Human Factors:

  • What is Human Factors about?
  • What does HSE expect?
  • What are other companies doing?
  •  What should my company do and how should we do it?

The Human Factors Benchmark helps companies to answer these questions.

The Challenge

Understanding exactly what Human Factors are about and how to address them

High profile accidents such as BP Texas City and Buncefield show what can happen when Human Factors are ignored. Almost all major accidents are caused by human failure in some way, whether because of poor leadership and management, design, operation or maintenance. By applying proven Human Factors techniques, grounded in the principles of human and organisational psychology, you can reduce human error to deliver improvements in safety and operational performance overall.

Human Factors considers three inter-related areas, the job, the individual and the organisation

The Solution

  • 01

Benchmarking Human Factors

Participants were keen to discover how their Human Factors practices compared alongside industry peers. Since Human Factors covers such a complex set of issues, this initial benchmarking exercise focused on the four core topics plus the common topic of safety culture.

Key Services

Process Safety Management Systems

Application of Human Factors

Assessment workshops were undertaken at each of the participating sites. The assessment process used HFL's INSIGHT Lifecycle auditing and assessment tool with questions based on the HSE Human Factors Inspector's Toolkit.

Process Safety Management Systems

Human Factors Topics

Questions sets covered the core topics; Competence Assurance; Human Factors in Incident Investigation; Identifying Human Failure; and Reliability and Usability of Procedures. A common topic, Safety Culture, was also covered.

Bespoke Programmes

Training and Workshops

After undertaking an intensive one day auditing exercise centred on the five Human Factors topics, each company was given individual confidential feedback on the findings, conclusions and suggested areas for improvement for their site.

The Results

Appropriate use of Human Factors principles can lead to more usable and reliable procedures, and improved performance.

The programme revealed some encouraging results in relation to culture and attitudes to learning from accidents and incidents but it also highlighted the need for a more structured approach to Human Factors:

  • Companies allow themselves to be on the back foot rather than taking a proactive approach to Human Factors
  • There is a focus on training rather than regular competence assessments
  • There needs to be better analysis of human error and Performance Influencing Factors in accident investigations
  • There needs to be better analysis of the root cause when routine or situational violations occur
  • Proactive identification of human failure is rarely conducted through human reliability analysis
  • Reliability and usability of procedures can be increased by enhancing the visual layout and presentation
  1. 01
    Intermediate to high scores were recorded for Procedures and Safety Culture
  2. 02
    Good organisational mechanisms are in place for Accident Investigation
  3. 03
    Key organisational mechanisms are in place to drive safety

Experience of major accidents has taught us an inescapable fact: People make mistakes. So it’s essential for businesses to focus on the human factors side of managing risk, to complement other essential aspects such as the integrity of plant and equipment and procedures to help monitor that systems of work are effective. By focusing on the various elements of human factors – from competency through to the culture of an organization – the programme helps companies get to the heart of how effective the ‘people’ part of managing major hazards is in their business. This HF programme and its benchmarking capability is unique in showing businesses how far they may be from ‘best in class’ in managing human factors.

Phil Scott, Safety & Risk Policy Manager, Chemical Industries Association

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