Human Factors in Safety
The secret to big gains
in safety and performance

Situational Awareness

Human Factors in Safety

What if there was a complementary approach to traditional safety behavioural programs that had compelling evidence, which could significantly improve organisational safety outcomes to a much greater extent? What if this same approach (as a bi-product of its safety program implementation) could reduce machinery & equipment maintenance costs while improving operational performance?

SHAWSAFE has the capability to significantly reduce safety incidents caused by operator error attributable to human abilities. When you consider the evidence, an astounding 80% to 90% of all industrial accidents are caused by human error (Health and Safety Executive 2002, Hole and Nagel 1993, and Reason 1990).  By far the most dominant form of human error is attention and concentration on the task.  Our assessment and cognitive training program directly targets these factors.

Situational Awareness

The secret to better safety outcomes – Neuroplasticity

With scientific advances, we can now precisely measure individual operational safety abilities and we can develop it – at the neural level within the brain!Amongst the psychology community, Neuroplasticity is a well-known and globally accepted part of Neuroscience, which has proved that the human brain is like a muscle and if correctly exercised, has the ability to improve specific cognitive functions such as Attention, Concentration, Memory, Planning, and Visual Perception.

As illustrated in the diagram above, traditional safety behavioural programs focus on the minority (i.e. 20%) of human factors that lead to industrial accidents.

Human ability training programs that utilize neuroplasticity techniques and optimise specific human abilities, focus on the majority (i.e. 80%) of human factors that lead to industrial accidents.

Human Factors in Safety

Situational Awareness – critical to safety outcomes

The fact remains that people and individual human factors such as knowledge, competence, attention, fatigue, concentration, distractibility, stress, and other human abilities are by far the most prevalent contributors leading to safety incidents and sub-optimal job performance.Indeed, international research indicates that it is not job knowledge or intention to take risks that cause accidents. It is in fact, situational awareness factors, dominated by attention, concentration, and awareness of the operational environment.

No one actually goes to work intending to cause an accident or be injured. So why is it that people from trainee through to experienced workers with a seemingly good attitude towards safety continue to be hurt in the workplace?

The decisions and actions that workers take, make sense to them at the time given their goals, knowledge and attention. Yet despite good intentions, workers often commit unsafe acts either unknowingly or knowingly, i.e. they accept a risk due to operational / commercial pressures or make a judgement call that the risk is acceptable. Some of the most common unsafe acts of operators and drivers include:

  • decision based errors (e.g. continuing to use defective equipment);
  • skill-based errors (e.g. omitted steps in a procedure – taking short cuts);
  • perceptual errors (e.g. misjudging speed, time and/or distance of mobile plant and equipment); and
  • violation of rules and regulations (e.g. operating a vehicle over the speed safety limit).

The most common preconditions of these unsafe acts are due to:

  • poor attention (e.g. multiple types of attention including selective, focused, divided and spatial attention);
  • lack or loss of situational awareness;
  • poor planning and decision making;
  • poor composure under pressure; and
  • lack of assertiveness when communicating.

Human Abilities Training program

Our methodology assesses and improves safety critical human abilities for operational and frontline supervisory roles, using scientifically validated human abilities training and development techniques through our “Safety Ability Optimisation Training (SAOT)” program. Our program utilises the science of Neuroplasticity to focus on the majority of human factors that lead to industrial accidents. Specifically, we diagnose human ability deficits and provide human ability training in safety critical areas such as:
  • Attention
  • Concentration
  • Memory
  • Distraction / inhibition control
  • Memory
  • Executive functions – e.g. ability to plan, prioritise and sequence activities in an operational environment
  • Visual perception
Human Factors in Safety

We focus on operational and frontline supervisory roles for the simple reason that most safety incidents and accidents in the workplace happen in an operational environment rather than in an office or corporate environment. This is where we can help to achieve the most substantial improvement and payback in organisational safety performance.Proven methodology

Our proven 4 step approach is summarised as follows:

  • Step 1 – Assess Human Abilities

Assess all operational and frontline supervisory staff using scientifically validated, computer-based psychometric, psychomotor, and perceptual assessment tools. This includes customized test batteries designed for specific operational and frontline job roles to ensure the highest possible predictive validity.

  • Step 2 – Reporting and Feedback

Analysis and interpretive reporting of assessment results to identify those operational and frontline employees with human ability deficits that are likely to impact safe work operations within their specific job role and can therefore, be classified as “above average risk”. Valuable psychologist feedback is provided to employees and managers to help with individual career development. Based on an individual’s identified human abilities strengths and weaknesses, career path guidance can be provided so that individuals can be directed to roles where they can best leverage their natural strengths to achieve their full potential with optimum safety and operational performance.

  • Step 3 – Train, develop, and direct

Above average risk employees participate in a computer-based Safety Ability Optimisation Training (SAOT) program with immediate post-training re-assessment to determine improvements in deficit areas.  Based on previous experience with other industrial clients, we would expect >90% of these employees to be successful in improving their abilities to be re-classified from above average risk to average risk, and in some cases, below average risk. Those unable to gain the required improvements could be selected for potential re-deployment to a role where their deficits are unlikely to impact their safety or the safety of those working around the individual.

  • Step 4 – Re-assess and take career development action

Reassess employees who attained the required improvements at 12 months post SAOT. We expect 90% to 95% of these employees to have maintained their improvements after 12 months in order to continue with an acceptable risk classification such as average or below average risk. The small percentage of employees that fall back to the above average risk category have the opportunity to complete a short refresher training program to regain previously acquired improvements. We have found this to be very successful. For those individuals unable to regain their improvements after completing refresher training could be classified for re-deployment to a job role where their deficits are unlikely to impact their safety or the safety of those working around the individual.

Based on global human factors research and evidence, our Safety Ability Optimisation Training program can make a significant, unique, and complementary contribution to safety outcomes over and above what can be achieved through traditional behavioural safety programs.The following diagram concisely illustrates why our program is not only unique, but is also more effective than traditional cognitive behavioural safety programs used in isolation.

Our Philosophy


Our philosophy focuses on helping and guiding individuals (and their managers) on career path development within operational / industrial / field services organisations. By helping individuals to improve their safety through human abilities assessment, training and coaching, we achieve major improvements in overall organisational safety to a level that is unachievable by traditional behavioural safety training programs.
Human Factors in Safety

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