Successful system design through integrating engineering and human factors



Over the past decade increased public concern and governmental regulatory agency action has been directed at the industry as a result of major accidents around the world. Such accidents have resulted in multiple personnel injuries, fatalities and/or environmental damage. Post-incident investigation of accidents such as those experienced by Phillips Petroleum Company, ARCO, Union Carbide, and Occidental Petroleum have made it clear that the source of these failures is often “human error.” For example, one study found that 80% of all accidents involving offshore oil and gas facilities in the U.S. were human-induced, and 80% of those occurred during operation. Based on these statistics the engineering community and corporate management has begun to recognize that specialists (e.g., ergonomists, human factors specialists) trained to match human capabilities and limitations to the engineering requirements of a system, can make significant contributions toward overall system safety and performance. Working together, engineers and ergonomists/human factors specialists can, and have, created designs which effectively match the best of the human and machine capabilities to create operational hardware and software which reduces the potential for human error and increases overall system reliability. This paper shows how human factors and engineering can be successfully integrated in the process industry environment. Basic human factors concepts integral to system design are presented.