Helping suppliers provide energy safely and more efficiently

Oil & Gas

Increased operational costs for offshore drilling and diminishing financial returns from lower oil prices have made oil and gas business leaders focus more on operational excellence. Operational excellence requires effective design and operational efficiency (especially on maintenance), better asset and human operator performance, improved health and safety compliance and enhanced project planning and control capability using technology.

Human Factors Engineering (HFE) or Human Factors Integration (HFI) aims to incorporate human factors knowledge into systems engineering, so that it is part of all complex systems throughout their life cycle. In the nuclear industry, human factors is seen as central to the safe and effective design and running of all nuclear facilities.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommends that:

  • Systematic consideration of human factors, including the human-machine interface shall be included at an early stage in the design process for a nuclear power plant and shall continue throughout the entire process.
  • Human Factors has a major role in the prevention of personal injury and dangerous occurrences such as hydrocarbon releases associated wells, pipelines etc., dropped objects, collisions, subsidence or collapse of the seabed, problems with lifting equipment or evacuation of installations.

When incidents are reviewed or risk assessments are conducted, the human factors issues that typically arise include:

  • Individual risk perception
  • Overestimating own abilities
  • Underestimating the consequences of familiar hazards
  • Failing to recognise subtle changes to familiar tasks
  • Collective influences such as safety culture
  • Deviations from processes mistaken for ‘efficiency’ or ‘innovation’
  • Reluctance to slow or halt activities regardless of circumstances
  • Organisational, technical or environmental influences affecting human behaviour
  • Designs/configurations do not match operator expectations
  • Critical information is not clearly communicated or understood

Nuclear Energy

Human factors has played a key role in the development of the nuclear industry. The design, operation, maintenance and regulation of nuclear facilities in the UK is based on well established human factors good practice and human factors specialists are employed in key roles throughout the industry.

The UK nuclear industry covers a range of areas:

  • Power generation, which includes the development of new-build power stations and the operation of the existing fleet of power stations.
  • Decommissioning of legacy sites including former defence and research facilities and as well as former power stations.
  • Fuel Manufacture, including manufacture of oxide fuels for advanced gas cooled reactors (AGR) and light water reactors (LWR).
  • Fuel Reprocessing activities, carried out at the Sellafield Site.
  • The UK’s nuclear deterrent and fleet of nuclear submarines.
  • Health Care Including diagnostic imaging pharmaceuticals designed for use with x-ray, magnetic resonance systems and nuclear cardiology systems.
  • Low Level Waste Storage.

There are a number of dedicated human factors roles within the nuclear industry. Human factors specialists are employed primarily in design, safety assessment and regulation, but also use their skills in a wide range of roles. It doesn’t take long for human factors specialists to find working practices they recognise and to see the influence human factors has had on the industry as a whole.

If you'd like to learn more, you might want to consider joining our Nuclear Sector Group. Find out more.

Case studies

Major accident hazards in the gas industry

Posted on 6/11/2015
George Petrie describes how TEPUK has used human factors principles to reduce potential for human failure in the gas industry.

Human factors in the control room

Posted on 6/11/2015
Jet Cameron describes all the essential factors that need to be taken into account when designing safe, comfortable and effective control rooms.

The human threat to nuclear safety and security

Posted on 6/9/2015
Andrew Healey discusses the implications of internal and external threats to nuclear safety and security and how human factors can help to mitigate these threats.