Background

Human performance theory strives to better understand the interactions between individuals and critical systems, and the individual's ability to recognize error-likely situations and to act in real time to mitigate threats likely to lead to error, causing accidents with resulting harm to the individual, workforce and/or environment. Psychological well-being is a critical factor for successful application of human performance principles. Psychological well-being is defined as low levels of fatigue, stress and distractibility and high levels of resilience that can be a positive influence on interactions, critical thinking and decision making within work groups and critical systems.

Objectives/Scope

Addressing engineering or mechanical controls alone without addressing the human behavior at the center of operations in the energy industry limits process safety efforts to decrease serious incidents and fatalities. To that end efforts to develop resiliency within the workforce highlight connections to safe operations. Our resilience framework addresses several interpersonal and intrapersonal factors that can enhance mental and emotional well-being. These psychological processes relate to documented impacts on safety, including situational awareness and decision making. In this paper we examine, through case studies, cognitive bias and how the practice of mindfulness (paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally), can positively impact human behavior and function as safeguards for decreasing human error.

Method

The goal of these studies is to elucidate how bias and distracted thinking (lack of mindfulness) are addressed in the decision-making process in the energy industry.to enhance mental well-being and human performance. Examples of tools that support decision making in situations where bias and stress may be a factor will be described. We will also describe steps that business unit leaders utilize to create a culture where human performance theory and individual psychological well-being converge, optimizing safe operations in the energy industry.

Results and Observations

Well-being data provide aggregate information from across the enterprise. Aggregate data from employee surveys and information from wellness programs and incident reports indicate that individual factors remain as opportunities for targeted focus on mental and emotional well-being in some groups. To that end, some downstream and upstream business units have identified cognitive bias, reactiveness and lack of mindfulness as focus areas for increasing awareness and development.

Conclusions

This paper aims to raise awareness about the importance of psychological functioning which can impact well-being and cognition. Cognitive impairment is certainly a detriment and hazard to safe operations. Compromised cognitive agility leads to inferior problem-solving ability and diminished decision-making capability, especially under duress. Humans do not have the ability to always self-monitor or regulate thoughts and actions like machines and are therefore susceptible to human error. Henceforth efforts to make thinking explicit is desirable, as well as efforts to expose deficits in cognitive processes. Decline in cognitive capacity may first be gleaned from changes in behavior including but not limited to absenteeism, presenteeism, and changes in mood, for example, depression, sadness and irritability. Because it is human nature to make mistakes, addressing these factors proactively can make workers and supervisors more aware of when they are most vulnerable to making mistakes, and highlight areas where adequate safeguards are needed.

Applications

Tools for supporting the workforce in addressing individual factor error traps are highlighted, including methods for improving focus and attention, heightening awareness of fatigue and personal biases, and taking appropriate action to mitigate the situation and stress in operational settings.

Innovations or Technical Contributions

This paper highlights the role of psychological well-being in influencing workforce health and safety and provides insights into proactive measures that can decrease distractibility, by increasing focus on the present, and influence human performance.

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