Beyond Technicalities: Understanding Human Factors in Energy and Gas Distribution

what is human factors in energy

The energy industry is a complex and safety-critical work environment that faces continuous challenges due to the growing focus on cost and increasing demand for uptime.

Human Factors training aims to optimise human performance in daily operations and during major accident risks, enabling safe and efficient operations.

This article will explore the basics of human factors, their impact on energy distribution management and human factors training in energy.

What is Human Factors?

human factors in energy and gas

Human Factors refer to environmental, organisational, and job-related factors. It also includes individual characteristics that can influence behaviour at work and impact health and operational safety.

Job factors are related to the nature of the task, workload, design of displays and controls, and the working environment.

Individual characteristics refer to the competence, skills, attitude, and risk perception of the worker.

Organisational elements refer to work patterns, workplace culture, resources, communication, and leadership. Job designers often overlook these factors, but they have a significant impact on individual and group behavior.

In simple terms, Human Factors are conditions that affect an employee’s interaction with their workplace, equipment, work procedures, and team.

Human Factors training originated from the aviation industry. A NASA investigation indicated that human factors, such as failures in interpersonal communication, lack of effective leadership, and poor decision-making processes, caused most aircraft crashes. Today, regulatory authorities mandate that commercial flight crews undergo human factors training on an annual basis.

The impact of human factors in energy distribution

Human factors directly impact the safety of employees, the public, and the environment in industries like energy. Studies indicate that human errors cause almost 80% of accidents in these safety-critical environments.

human error disasters in energy

Some of the most well-known examples of accidents caused by human factors include:

1. Chornobyl Nuclear Disaster (1986): A catastrophic explosion at the Chornobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine was caused by design flaws, hazardous attitudes, and poor decision-making.

2. Piper Alpha Oil Platform Explosion (1988): The explosion in the North Sea led to the death of 167 people due to poor communication, inadequate safety procedures, and a lack of proper maintenance.

3. Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (2010): The explosion and resulting oil spill on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig in the Gulf of Mexico was caused by human errors and miscommunication. Failure to recognise warning signs, inadequate design, and poor risk assessments contributed to the disaster.

These examples highlight the significance of understanding and addressing human factors in designing and managing complex systems.

Organisations can enhance safety significantly by integrating human factors engineering principles into their operations. This includes designing for human limitations and capabilities, using user-centred design, providing practical training, standardising procedures, and promoting continuous improvement.

Human factors training for the energy sector

Human Factors training acknowledges human error is inevitable. HF training differs from traditional safety training, as it focuses on cognitive and interpersonal skills rather than the technical know-how.

The aim of human factors training is to help teams manage high-risk activities effectively by identifying safety and productivity issues caused by communication and process barriers within an organisation. The training aims to encourage safe and responsible behaviour to reduce the risk of incidents and accidents.

Human Factors training also increases knowledge of how human factors can impact performance and safety in energy distribution. Additionally, it equips employees with the necessary skills to work effectively in a team setting.

Our HF courses provide a comprehensive introduction to human factors, giving you a solid foundation for implementing human factors in your organisation.

Human factors training course for the energy sector

Final thoughts

Managing human failures is crucial to preventing major accidents.

Our HF courses for energy offer a comprehensive introduction to human factors, providing a practical and interactive background on key topic areas. And work on how human and organisational factors can be applied in the workplace.

If you would like to learn more about our courses, to contact us at +45 26 37 39 39 or ask@naviminds.com.

Anne Knudsen

Anne Knudsen

Anne's career began in the late 80s as a cabin crew, and she was quickly drawn to the world of flying. After a few years, she became a pilot and flight instructor in several larger airlines. Presently, Anne holds the role of CEO at NaviMinds.

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