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Human Factors

Introduction | Publications | Multimedia | Events | Research | Organizations


Human Factors is a science that focuses on how humans interact with the environment in their workplace. It examines the workplace factors that influence the decisions and actions of workers.

No one goes to work intending to be injured. The decisions and actions that workers take make sense to them at the time given their goals, knowledge and focus of attention.

The human factors approach to an investigation asks why a worker's decision or action made sense to that worker at the time.

More information (PDF 116 KB) on Human Factors at WorkSafeBC.

Interaction of human factors shows the interaction between people, workplaces and management systems.
Download bulletin Human error? Consider human factors (PDF 397KB)


Human Factors Bulletins human factors icon

poster thumbnail Asking questions from a human factors perspective
HF 2014-01
This bulletin will help employers understand the deeper issues surrounding the entire work environment.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Safety controls: levels of effectiveness
HF 2012-01
This bulletin illustrates the Hierarchy of Controls, and provides guidance as to the best remedy for control once the underlying or causal factors of an incident have been identified.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Safety awareness: control motions can have unexpected results
HF 2011-04
This bulletin examines the interaction between workers and controls and what can happen if the workers expectations are not consistent with how the control operates.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Distracted attention---mobile phone use and walking HF 2011-03
This bulletin looks at how using a mobile phone can affect a pedestrian's attention, body position, visual field and safety.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Effectiveness of signage HF 2011-02
This bulletin highlights several incidents in which signage was ineffective and discusses some of the limitations of using signage as a safety control measure.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Human visual limitations and overhead power lines HF 2011-01
This bulletin highlights the visual limitations humans are susceptible to, and how these limitations may affect their ability to correctly predict proximity to hazards such as overhead power lines.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Safety approaches---person or system centered? HF 2010-02
In an incident a traffic control person (TCP) was struck by a vehicle, sustaining fatal head injuries. This bulletin discusses what could be done to improve their safety.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Written procedures and actual practice HF 2009-04
This bulletin examines an incident wherein a worker was operating a machine without fully understanding how it worked. A kickback resulted in a fatal blow to the worker's chest.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Work schedules and fatigue HF 2009-03
This bulletin examines an incident wherein a young worker's schedule didn't allow enough time for both commuting and sufficient sleep. Included are links to resources which provide information on fatigue and how to prevent it in the workplace.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Elevated loads and feedback systems  HF 2009-02
This bulletin looks at two incidents involving trucks with elevating components or parts. These trucks did not have a feedback system to let the drivers know that the components on their trucks were elevated during travel.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Assessing risk? Consider human limitations HF 2009-01
This bulletin looks at how a risk assessment of a work task needs to consider the limitations of the individuals doing the task.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Don't forget to remember to lockout HF 2008-03
This bulletin looks at one critical safety process that relies on human memory---lockout. Without physical measures to block entry into a machine or to alert the operator to its status, the burden rests with the worker to remember to lock out the machine.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Human error? Consider human factors HF 2008-02
This bulletin looks at how the interaction between people, workplaces and management systems--human factors, may contribute to an accident.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Different Controls on Similar Machines HF 2008-01
This bulletin looks at the lack of consistency among the controls on different machines.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


Hazard Alert Posters
poster thumbnail Young worker almost loses foot while sawing cedar blocks
This bulletin describes how a young worker almost lost a foot while sawing cedar shakes with a head saw.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


poster thumbnail Parking brakes with European valve can release if not locked in
This bulletin describes how a garbage truck driver was crushed between a refuse bin and the garbage truck.
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


Human Factors Briefing Notes

A series of briefing notes are available covering some of the key topics in human factors

Source: Health and Safety Executive (HSE UK)


Inspectors Human Factors Toolkit
A set of working notes aimed at introducing human factors into site inspections and investigations at major hazard sites. Covers topics such as safety-critical communications, management of fatigue risks, and organizational change. Download the complete toolkit (85 pages) or selected parts.
Source: Health and Safety Executive, UK

Ergonomics in Design
This periodical publication is intended to serve the needs of practicing human factors engineers and ergonomists who are concerned with the usability of products, systems, and environments.
Source: Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing & Service Industries
The Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing journal covers a broad spectrum of ergonomics and human factors issues with a focus on the design, operation and management of contemporary manufacturing systems.
Source: Wiley InterScience

International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics
This journal publishes original contributions that add to our understanding of the role of humans in today's systems and the interactions thereof with various system components.
Source: Elsevier, The Netherlands

Visually Exploring Masses of Data
"Visual analytics (VA) was initially proposed to help US intelligence analysts deal with the masses of security-related information made available to them following the World Trade Center attacks on September 11, 2001."
Source: David Darvill, PhD


Garbage Truck Accident Investigation
thumbnail Garbage truck strikes overpass, driver crushed
In this slide show, the accident investigation found that human factors played an important role. (5 min 6 s)
Integrating Human Factors Engineering into Medical Devices
A video teleconference from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on integrating Human Factors Engineering into Medical Device Design and Development. Watch video (1 hr 51 min)


Human Factors at WorkSafeBC
The Human Factors team at WorkSafeBC is part of the investigation department that conducts investigations into fatal and serious injury incidents within BC. The team promotes the system safety perspective which seeks to understand why certain decisions and actions made sense to the worker and what elements in the workplace system may have influenced their understanding at the time of an incident. The process of analysis is always supported with the broad and varied science of human factors.

Beyond their role as subject matter experts for investigations, the human factors specialists serve multiple areas of WorkSafeBC including support for lessons learned and as independent investigators/researchers who examine injury trends to offer insight into why certain incidents continuously re-occur and how to best develop and implement safe and effective systems of work.

As human factors specialists, they are dedicated to promoting and applying system safety perspectives and methods to advance safety. They are often invited to present to internal and external audiences. They also develop human factors bulletins, web-site materials, investigation reports, etc. To support the profession, the team have created a WorkSafeBC human factors community of practice; a forum for practitioners and industries representatives to come together to share experiences, promote innovations, problem solve and network. These sessions are held bi-annually.

The Human Factors Team
Tami Perkins, Jenny Colman and Heather Kahle

All three human factors specialists have academic human science backgrounds and have each been at WorkSafeBC for over fifteen years. In 2004, the newly developed Investigation division adopted a human factors model of investigation in which the specialists are subject matter experts. All have continued to advance their knowledge on human factors and system safety with education from the Transportation Safety Board (TSB), National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other specialized training for effective investigations.

Jenny Colman and Heather Kahle have their CRSP accreditation and a Masters in Human Factors and System Safety from the University of Lund, Sweden. Their joint thesis examined the principles of individual resilience and performance variability in the BC forestry industry. Continued professional development for the team entails introducing the principles and concepts of human factors, system safety and resilience engineering into the industrial sectors to further enhance their opportunity for safe operations.

If you'd like to reach one of the Human Factors specialists please email:

Human Factors Approach to Safety and Incident Investigations

The WorkSafeBC Human Factors team are hosting this one-day incident investigation workshop.

Where and when:

  • May 21, 2015 at the UBC Okanagan Campus, 3333 University Way, Kelowna, B.C.
  • May 22, 2015 at the Kelowna Fire Department, 2255 Enterprise Way, Kelowna, B.C.
  • June 23, 2015 at PoCo Inn & Suites, Port Coquitlam, B.C. Register here - $30.00 fee for this workshop
  • November 2015, date and location to be determined, Vancouver Island, B.C.

Space is limited so please RSVP by forwarding your name, company, address, phone number and email to . Enroll today to improve the outcomes of your incident investigations. Note there is no group registration possible - each individual must register separately.

Background information (PDF 49 KB)

For more information contact

Human Factors Research

Fatigue Survey of BC Truck Drivers (Summary) (PDF 87 KB)
"Between July and August of 2005 a survey was conducted by WorkSafeBC to measure the impact of fatigue on BC truck drivers. Surveys were distributed and collected at truck stops throughout the province by WorkSafeBC officers. In total, 336 surveys were collected from truck drivers working in many different industries."
Source: WorkSafeBC WorkSafeBC


Association of Canadian Ergonomists (ACE)
The Association of Canadian Ergonomists/l'Association canadienne d'ergonomie (ACE) is an association of persons who have human factors/ergonomics interests. Membership is open to those who will benefit from the judicious application of human factors and ergonomic knowledge, either as individuals or as representatives of organizations.

Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
The Society's mission is to promote the discovery and exchange of knowledge concerning the characteristics of human beings that are applicable to the design of systems and devices of all kinds.

International Ergonomics Association
The International Ergonomics Association is the federation of ergonomics and human factors societies from around the world.

The Ergonomics Society
An international organisation for professionals using knowledge of human abilities and limitations to design and build for comfort, efficiency, productivity and safety.

Cognitive Systems Engineering Laboratory
A laboratory at Ohio State University that specializes in designing systems to support human performance in complex settings.

Center for Resilience
The Center for Resilience at Ohio State University is an interdisciplinary research center dedicated to improving the resilience of industrial systems and the environments in which they operate.

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