SIG organisers: Clare Pollard
Over the coming years the nuclear industry will face change. Ageing plants will be decommissioned and new facilities are being planned. We need to deliver ergonomic solutions to new developments and assurance work to maintain existing plants. Our main challenges will include:
- Moving from traditional analogue control rooms, to user-configurable computer-based instrumentation and control.
- Maintaining situational awareness whilst increasing automation.
- Quantifying the effects of computer-based instrumentation and control on human performance.
- Producing Human Factors Post Operational Clear Out and Decommissioning safety cases.
We provide an independent forum for ergonomics specialists to discuss emergent issues. If this includes you, join us now.
The SIG needs a new co-ordinator and volunteers to be part of the organising committee. If you are interested in spending some of your spare time supporting the SIG, please email Clare Pollard with your details by close of play on 17th July.
Human factors now a key discipline in the nuclear industry
On a cloudy day in March 2014, fifty of the UK’s nuclear human factors specialists gathered at the HSE premises in Bootle for the Nuclear Ergonomics Special Interest Group (NESIG) one day annual conference. The purpose was to share knowledge and to discuss key issues that challenge practitioners during the application of human factors techniques in the industry. The event was organised by Richard Simcock and the theme was “Where are we now and where are we going?”
Human Factors Engineer, Paul Traub opened the event by discussing various HRA techniques and how they can be used together to derive human error probabilities. Making an interesting comparison with mixing your drinks, Paul discussed his experience with the use of various techniques such as HEART, THERP and Time Reliability Curves. He highlighted particular combinations of techniques that seem to provide appropriate, reasonable outcomes and used video clips to great effect to entertain and inform.
David Embrey of Human Reliability Associates then compared the nuclear industry approach to human factors application with his current area of expertise, oil and gas. Discussing the different aspects of qualitative versus quantitative assessment, David suggested a potential lack of transparency of the type of work being undertaken in the nuclear industry. He went on to demonstrate the benefits of using software to model human errors, including a rating scale to help identify where intervention by ergonomists could be beneficial.
Jon Berman, Director of Greenstreet Berman, led a thought-provoking discussion on resilient organisations and the potential for conflict between resilience and compliance. Discussion of how to prepare operators for the unexpected while heavily relying on procedural control was the main focus. He backed the move towards ‘Safety II’ and the need to examine what organisations are doing right while learning from incidents. The need for a shift from reducing to managing uncertainty and the factors that affect compliance were debated.
“Procedures Schmocedures” from Richard Simcock of Ergonomic Systems Ltd, looked at the natural use of procedures and their over-reliance in the workplace. Strongly challenging the guidance that demands the need to use step-by-step procedures for anything important or complex, he stated that we are not currently taking into account people’s strengths and capabilities by dictating the need for procedures in many circumstances where they might not improve human reliability. An interactive, informative presentation.
Mark Roberts of Urenco ChemPlants, then gave the group a different viewpoint from outside of the human factors profession. An EC&I Engineer, Mark described how good alarm management can improve operator and plant efficiency and how to make a business case for the integration of human factors. He presented the alarm management process being undertaken on his project and summarised the results of detailed alarm rationalisation. He gave points of warning to the group and highlighted the successful implementation of a collaborative approach to alarm design.
The final presentation came from Jerry Williams, a retired Nuclear Regulator, discussing both the achievements of the profession and looking to the future. He described how ergonomics had become a key discipline in the nuclear industry, making reference to Sizewell B and the influential research that has been undertaken. He highlighted a number of aspects that should be considered to improve our influence within the industry, such as providing cost arguments for human factors involvement and researching areas to better understand situational awareness and psychological error mechanisms.
There was plenty of opportunity for networking throughout the event, giving sufficient time to catch up with old friends, debate topics and to make new connections. A good lunch was provided, sponsored by the AREVA RMC Human Factors Team.
There was an open discussion asking for delegate feedback on the pupose and goals of the NESIG and how to take the Group forward. One of the aims of this session was to highlight to the group members the need for a group co-ordinator, or a steering committee of organisers, who would be able to expand the involvement of the SIG. Many expressed an interest in supporting the SIG and a co-ordinator, or team, will be identified in the near future.
The NESIG organisers would like to thank a number of groups. Firstly, the ONR for providing a venue for the day, and particularly to Ben McCaulder for his organisation, and Elaine Vinton for the opening address and warm welcome.
Thanks to all the speakers who did an excellent job of providing thought-provoking presentations. This event could not be run without them volunteering their time and ideas for their peers.
Thanks to Ned Hickling and Richard Simcock who ensured the event ran smoothly on the day by chairing the sessions and by being part of the organising committee that put the day together. Finally, to Clare Pollard, who did a wonderful job of keeping a close eye on the time (even if I do say so myself!).
Feedback was received from the delegates and will be reviewed in order to define the next steps for the Group. Well done to Jennie Brown from AREVA RMC for winning the raffle prize of an Ashgate Publishing book voucher.
To all NESIG members, please keep a watch for communications from the present steering committee in order to find volunteers to support future group activities to ensure the continued success of the NESIG.