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Human factors briefing notes

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Understanding how human factors (HF) influence human performance is increasingly important as a management aid. There are many reference books and websites concerned with HF and ergonomics and, although the terms are in common use in industry, it can be difficult to easily find out about particular HF issues.

To improve industry's understanding of key HF issues, the EI’s Human and Organisational Factors Committee (HOFCOM) commissioned Kingsley Management Ltd. to prepare the Human factors briefing notes resource pack.  Originally published in 2003, the briefing notes have undergone an extensive review, and the second edition resource pack was published in 2011. Three new briefing notes were added in 2016.

Second edition 

The second edition briefing notes have been revised and expanded, with new case studies and content, and redesigned to be easier to read and more practical to use.  They were launched with an article in Petroleum Review and Energy World magazines written by author Bill Gall (Kingsley Management Ltd.) explaining their development.  

Second edition Human factors briefing notes 

The briefing notes provide a definition and introduction to the most pertinent HF topics.  They also provide: 

  • checklists of questions to gauge whether your company has a problem;  
  • guidance on what the company or management should do to address each HF issue;
  • both 'negative' and 'positive' case studies (illustrating the consequences and potential solutions);
  • potential performance indicators (PIs) for the HSE 'key topics', and
  • further reading lists.

There are now 23 briefing notes, covering the following topics:  



Provides guidance on:


Using the briefing notes and the importance of HF.


Alarm handling

Alarm ‘flooding’, standing alarms, nuisance alarms and others.


Organisational change

Avoiding problems when restructuring an organisation.



Ensuring reliable servicing, repair, testing, calibration and inspection.



Avoiding performance deficits associated with excessive mental or physical fatigue.


Safety critical procedures

Ensuring the usability of all forms of work instructions.


Training and competence

Ensuring workforce competence through selection, training and assessment.



Good design of tasks, workplace, tools and equipment.


Safety culture

Securing appropriate management and workforce attitudes and values towards safety.



Ensuring the correct transfer of information especially at shift handover.


Task analysis

Methods for examining work tasks.


Human error and non-compliance

Understanding how and why tasks fail to meet objectives.


Human reliability analysis

The principles and methods used to assess errors.


Behavioural safety

Improving safety behaviour through observation and feedback.


Incident and accident analysis

Learning lessons from untoward events.


Human factors integration

Incorporating human factors into projects and organisational systems.


Performance indicators

Leading and lagging indicators of human performance for HF topics.



The effect of leaders’ influence and direction on health and safety.


Pressure and stress

Coping with work demands and other sources of pressure.


Occupational safety vs. process safety

The difference between personal and major hazard safety.



Supervisor competence.


Willingness to act

Encouraging willingness to shut down operations.


Workload and staffing levels

Managing workload so that decision making is not negatively affected.

How to access this publication  To understand how they are best used, please read briefing note 1: Introduction before proceeding further.

Purchase the complete Human factors briefing notes resource pack (2011, Second edition, ISBN 978 0 85293 608 5) in hard copy format. Note: this pack does not currently include briefing notes 21, 22 and 23.

Download individual briefing notes free of charge by clicking on the titles in the above list.

Whilst users are encouraged to use them, the briefing notes are subject to copyright and should not be uploaded to multi-user intranets without permission. Should you wish to order a bulk quantity of the packs or seek a licence to upload the series to a company intranet, please contact 

Once you’ve used the briefing notes, EI’s Human and Organisational Factors Committee would like to hear from you. Have you found them helpful?  Are there other issues that would benefit from being covered in the briefing notes? Email or send your comments to Stuart King, EI, 61 New Cavendish St, London W1G 7AR e:


This resource pack was prepared by Bill Gall (Kingsley Management Ltd.), with the support of the Keil Centre, at the request of the EI Human and Organisational Factors Committee (HOFCOM). During this work, committee members included:

  • Fiona Brindley, Health and Safety Executive
  • Bill Gall Kingsley, Management Ltd.
  • Pete Jefferies, ConocoPhillips (Vice-Chair)
  • Stuart King, EI (Secretary)
  • Rob Miles, Health and Safety Executive
  • Allen Ormond, ABB
  • Graham Reeves, BP plc (Chair)
  • Rob Saunders, Shell International Exploration and Production B.V
  • Helen Rycraft, Magnox North Sites
  • Dr Mark Scanlon, EI
  • Dr John Symonds, ExxonMobil Corporation
  • John Wilkinson, Health and Safety Executive

Technical editing and project coordination were carried out by Stuart King (EI). The briefing notes were designed by Lindsey Board (EI) and Pravin Dewdhory (Ideas Faculty Ltd.).

The EI also wishes to acknowledge its appreciation to all stakeholders who made significant contributions during the survey and/or review stages of the project.

Although it is hoped and anticipated that the Human factors briefing notes will assist those with responsibility for human factors issues, the Energy Institute cannot accept any responsibility, of whatsoever kind, for adverse health, incidents, injuries, damage, loss, or alleged adverse health, incidents, injuries, damage, loss, arising or otherwise occurring as a result of their application.