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What is HOF?

Human and Organisational Factors (HOF) study interactions between humans and system elements, using theories and methods to optimize human well-being and system performance (International Ergonomics Association).

HOF, also known as Human Factors or Ergonomics outside the rail sector, integrates knowledge from various sciences such as Management, Sociology, Design, Politics, Economics, Psychology, Physiology, and Engineering. This broadens the study to include organisational, cultural, and political factors affecting safety (ERA).

HOF supports safety integration in design and identifies gaps between prescribed tasks and actual work, addressing residual risks. This approach enhances management in complex organisations like railway systems, crucial for safety improvements (European Railway Agency).

What are HOFs in concrete terms?

Human Factors is one of those terms that everybody has heard of, but the full scope of what human factors covers isn’t always obvious. Human Factors (the American term), ergonomics (the UK term), or Human and Organisational Factors (ERA term), is about designing work in a way that matches the abilities, needs and limitations of the people doing the work. It is a very broad discipline, rooted in an understanding of the psychology and physiology of humans, but applying that knowledge to the design of equipment, tools, information, processes, and procedures. Read more

Why do people make errors?
Whenever something goes wrong, we often hear the label ‘human error’ being applied. Within human factors, human error is the starting point for an investigation, not the end point. Ok, somebody did something wrong, but why? What was it about the person, the task, the team, and most importantly the organisation that influenced the error? Read more
What are non-technical skills?
One of the approaches to help minimise errors is the idea of non-technical skills. Technical skills are the skills you learn to be able to do your job – like being able to control the speed of a train or knowing where to look when dispatching a train. Non-technical skills are the softer skills that can help you do your job well. Read more
What are error prevention techniques?
Human error comes in three forms: slips (unintentional actions or misperception), lapses (forgetting to act) and mistakes (making a wrong decision). What is common across all three types of error is that they are unintentional – you don’t set out to get it wrong or break a rule. While human factors focusses mainly on the factors in the task and environment that led to an error, we can also reduce errors by using little tricks and tips to keep us right (so-called ‘error prevention techniques’). Read more
Why do people break rules?
Human error and the techniques can be used to help counteract errors. But there are two reasons why people don’t follow rules (the first is because of errors (Why do people make errors?), and the second is when people choose not to follow the rules. These are known in the human factors discipline as violations. Unlike errors, which are unintentional, violations are conscious decisions to knowingly break a rule. But there are a range of reasons why someone might do this, and not all of them are really bad! Read more
What are performance influencing factors?
Humans are prone to errors, but some things can make them more likely and other things can create a situation where it seems like the best option is to break a rule. The focus of human factors is understanding what these ‘things’ are and how they can be improved. These ‘things’ have lots of different names (e.g. Performance Shaping Factors, Error Producing Conditions) but we will call them Performance Influencing Factors (PIFs). Read more

Our Solutions

Enhancing safety management

The safety management system (SMS) is part of the business processes of the organisation and is not just a paper-based system specifically developed for demonstrating compliance with the regulatory framework. …

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Human Performance

The term Human Performance refers to the contribution that humans make to the performance of a system. It describes how people carry out their work, whether as an individual or as a team, in order to meet a required objective. ….

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HOF regulations, standards and tools

The systematic integration of HOF cannot be done without having a consistent reference base in the form of regulations, standards and tools. This basis makes it possible to develop the integration of HOF in the Safety Management System (SMS). …

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HOF in practice

The human factors discipline provides a theoretical knowledge base which can be applied to optimise systems for safety, human performance and wellbeing. These theory, principles, and methods can be applied in at different stages of the lifecycle …

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 Share Your Experiences

The SNCF’s Just & Fair approach

What are the key HOF issues?

In 2015, SNCF launched a major safety program (called PRISME) to improve its overall safety performance. As baseline of this program, the company has deployed a Just & Fair (J&F) approach to create a climate of trust and then encourage everyone to report safety problems and thus being able to fix them.

What did you do?

To support its just culture ... READ MORE

Co-construction of a Safety Culture model at SNCF

What are the key HOF issues? In 2020, SNCF became a unified public group composed by several anonymous companies. Given the status change, it was important to provide a common and unique definition of Safety Culture for the entire SNCF group. By officialising its own definition and Safety Culture model, SNCF group set in stone its ambition in terms of safety excellence. What did you do? To carry out this READ MORE

Automation Myth Busting Paper#2 The Changing Role of Staff in Automated Railway Operation and why Human Cognition is Here to Stay

Automated mainline railway operation is challenging the traditional role of the operational staff ensuring safe and punctual service. Nevertheless, there are sound operational, economic, regulatory and societal reasons for valuing and maintaining central contributions of human staff to railway operation in future automated service. Instead of a linear transferal of tasks from the human to the automation technology a human-machine ... READ MORE

Automation Myth Busting Paper#3 Automation and mental workload

Automation paradoxically has the potential to both increase and decrease mental workload, depending on the circumstances. Furthermore, decreasing workload can actually put an operator into an underload state, which is just as bad for performance as overload. We have learned these lessons in the aviation and, more recently, automotive industries; as accident reports demonstrate, we are now starting to see their impact on the railway with the ... READ MORE

Automation Myth Busting Paper#4 Teaming between humans and automation

Due to technological advances, automation is nowadays no longer regarded only as a tool for humans but, due to the execution of complex tasks, is increasingly discussed in terms of a team member. This article describes how successful teaming can optimally be realized so that the strengths of the human operator and the automation are brought to bear. The decisive factor is a human-centred work design that focuses on the needs of human ... READ MORE