Human and organisational factors of safety

Human and organisational factors (HOF)

The role of human beings and the organisation in complex technical systems remains key in order to acheive better safety performance. However, the implementation, in business, of an approach that integrates human and organisational factors continues to run into numerous problems:

- Unlike technical aspects, there are still very few formal tools and approaches that are able to promote initiative and the management of a safety approach that takes into account human and organisational factors.
- The approach often focuses on the behaviour of operators, human error and following procedures, which limits understanding of key, structural factors.

Humans have an ambivalent role in the organisation. A source of error, they also play a key role in recovering from and compensating for a multitude of incidents or weaknesses. Similarly, if we depend on organisations to limit risks, these very structures contain a large number a hazards that are inherent in their mode of operation and which therefore must be understood and analysed.

The Discussion Group

The aim of the working group is to discuss all aspects of human and organisational factors that may contribute to improving safety, both with respect to the management of individual  (behaviour and knowledge) and collective and systemic (structural and working relationships) risk from a dynamic perspective (change management).

Indicator Social and human aspects
Structure Organigram and workstations
Procedures / Processes
Production rules and procedures
Economic and time constraints
Management systems
Prescribed/ real divergences
Working conditions / Stress
Adaptation to the environment
Formalisation of work
Relations Leadership
Conflicts, alliances and cooperation
Power relationships
Vicious/ virtuous circles
Collective Belonging to a group
Professional identity
Company culture
(Lack of) Cohesion
Demotivation, withdrawal
Company culture
Behaviour/ knowledge Behaviour: physical and mental ability, etc.
Activity and workstation
Skills, learning
Human error / recovery
Human-machine interactions
Performance: human resource management
Change management Reorganisation
Design of a new tool or equipment
Change management


This Discussion Group has led to:

- a 2-day training module on Human and Organisational Factors of Safety.

- the following Industrial Safety Reports

* Human and organisational factors of industrial safety management: the state-of-the-art (English version)
* Leadership in safety: industrial practice (English version)
* Facteurs humains et organisationnels de la sécurité industrielle : des questions pour progresser (Human and organisational factors of industrial safety: some ways forward; French only)

The Discussion Group has also supported many research projects financed by the Foundation for an Industrial Safety Culture in the context of its call for proposals in 2006.