The paper begins by highlighting the role human beings play in accidents before reviewing the existing understandings of the term "human factors". A general definition is proposed which involves interfacing a set of personal characteristics and capabilities with equipment and the working environment in the performance of a task. A method of incorporating human factors in safety methodology is also outlined. The main conclusion is that it is necessary to understand the key elements of human factors before seeking ways of applying them via feasible safety methodologies.
Investigations into accidents in recent years have led to the identification of many causes which contribute to their occurrence. One common factor in all these unplanned, unexpected and harmful events is the role of human beings. Generally this is referred to as either "human error" or more popular1y "human factors". A typical example of a case in which human factors contributed Significantly to an accident is that of British Midland's new Boeing 737 aircraft on a joumey between London to Belfast on 8th January 1989, when the pilots shut off the working, rather than the faulty, engine. This aircraft crashed before reaching Kegworth Airport (Department of Transport Air Accident Investigation Branch, 1990). It Is for these reasons that a better understanding of the term "human factors" would help in the achievement of improved performance and safe operations. The main purpose of this paper is to provide a critical examination of the basis bf human factors, and to consider how a better understanding of them can assist in their effective application to marine and offshore situations. Emphasis is placed on their contribution to the safe operation of a ship or offshore installation and their role in safety methodologies. The term "human factors" is considered first before a definition is proposed.