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Human Factors

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Article Information
Category: Human Factors Human Factors
Content source: SKYbrary About SKYbrary


Human Performance in the working environment has become popularly referred to as Human Factors (HF). It underlies the focus of the applied science of ergonomics which is usually considered to cover the adaptation of work or working conditions to enhance performance of the worker. Generally and historically, the measure of such performance has been seen as efficiency or productivity and as an adaptive response rather than a core element of initial design. Of course in the context of aviation and similar safety-critical activities where optimum human performance is equated specifically with operational safety standards rather than strictly with business efficiency, it is not surprising that the wider descriptive term HF has gained particular currency.

Because of an early appreciation of the dual importance of both error reduction and error management, aviation has become one of the leading exponents of building HF into all aspects human performance. Nowadays, there is a wide ranging effort to make people aware of HF as well as commitment to consider it in both new system design and the mitigation of unwanted effects of existing design which cannot be immediately substituted with improved alternatives.

Human Factors in its widest definition describes all the many aspects of human performance which interact with their (aviation) environment to influence the outcome of events. These may be related to either the physiological or psychological aspects of human capability, both of which are able to directly affect the way in which the human operator performs in different circumstances.

Less than perfect human performance is cited as a causal factor in the majority of aircraft accidents and serious incidents. If the accident rate is to be decreased, HF must be better understood and the knowledge more broadly applied.

Since front line aviation personnel are rarely fulfilling their duties as isolated individuals, most effort to create training solutions which will deliver increased awareness of HF issues have gone into improved co-operation amongst co-workers. Recent years have seen the widespread introduction by aircraft operators, by ATM and by aircraft maintenance organizations of Crew Resource Management (CRM) and Line Oriented Flight Training (LOFT) for pilots, TRM (TRM) for ATCOs and Maintenance Resource Management (MRM) in aircraft maintenance.

Particularly helpful in raising awareness of the importance of HF has been the trend to a Safety Culture in which people are increasingly willing to file safety reports about incidents which might not otherwise have come to light an help establish how circumstances transpired to create the error chain which led to an incident so that the response to it can be effective. The slowly increasing willingness for organizations to openly share usable levels of information on safety incidents and solutions has also begun to help improve understanding of just how important a comprehensive appreciation of HF is. Not very long ago, safety occurrence data appeared to show that technical faults were far more prevalent than human error, which was at serious variance with the findings of Accident Investigations. The breakthrough has come especially through seeing personal HF in the context of environmental or circumstantial HF.

Organisation of SKYbrary Content

SKYbrary articles introducing the many HF subjects in more detail are grouped into both five sub categories by subject area and three categories by functional sector - Aircraft Operations, Air Traffic Management and Aircraft Maintenance. Some articles serve more than one, or even all three functional categories. There are links to other SKYbrary content, some providing more detailed information about a particular subject and others providing contextual information.

[Please Note - Work in Progress]

The OGHFA (OGHFA) has been prepared to provide a reference guide on human factors specifically for aircraft operators and is cross referenced extensively in support of the articles which support in that functional category. However, much of the material it contains applies to other aviation safety stakeholders and cross reference to this guide is therefore made from other functional sectors and commended accordingly.

Further Reading