Risk is something that we deal with daily. We all have an idea of what is acceptable risk, from a personal level to organisational one. We all know that certain tasks must be risk averse, for example using heavy machinery, and within the manufacturing industry it is imperative that we err on the side of caution. Everyday we put ourselves at risk, from driving in our car to walking down the street but whilst as adults we are able to make decisions about this ourselves, there are many times where an organisation needs to step up and take further action. One way of doing this is by having an understanding of human factors and putting mitigations in place to ensure a working environment is naturally risk averse.
Human factors is an area of psychology that focuses on creating work environments that boost productivity whilst minimising safety issues – is this not something that we all desire? If so, why do we not hear about human factors as much as we should do? I believe that having a simple understanding of human factors, no matter what your occupation, title or position will benefit you and your organisation for the better.
Putting it simply, the factors (also known as Performance Influencing Factors) fall into three main groups - Organisation, Work and People.
A few examples include:
Organisation: Staffing levels, work overload, organisational structures, culture.
Work: Time pressures, availability and quality of information, distractions.
People: Physical capability, confidence, competence, domestic issues etc.
It is very difficult to control people, however you can often control or influence their environment and reduce the impact of these factors.
Within RHH Franks we use this type of risk averse thinking in all activities, and it is something that I talk about a lot to my team! For example, when supporting a client with the manufacture of a new product, we not only think about what they want, but we plan the best method of manufacture from a quality and repeatability perspective – how can we make it easy for our engineers to make it right every time and never wrong? We also place high importance on health and safety – what measures can we put in place to permanently protect them from harm? Is there a more appropriate machine to use? Can we ensure that we have all the right resources in the right place, at the right time?
Many of us naturally do this, and many of us sadly use hindsight after an event, incident, reject etc. I challenge my manufacturing and engineering comrades to take the proactive approach to risk, and quality in all areas and to ensure your teams are well versed in this area also.
It is vital that leadership and management teams have an understanding of human factors as they are ultimately responsible for creating suitable work environments for employees. We need to ensure that we make it easy for employees to do the right thing, be it with quality, health and safety or other important aspects.
Through this past year being mindful of human factors has never been more important, so be sure to take this into consideration within yourself but also within your teams and organisations. A proactive approach to human factors could prevent near-misses, tragedies, and also improve quality and performance.