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How human factor affects aviation safety


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Nigeria

DESPITE rapid gains in technology, humans are ultimately responsible for ensuring the success and safety of the aviation industry globally.

However, they must continue to be knowledgeable, flexible, dedicated, and efficient while exercising good judgment to enable improve safety in air travel.

Consequently, the industry has continued to make major investments in training, equipment, and systems that have long-term implications. And because technology has continued to evolve faster than the ability to predict how humans will interact with it, the industry can no longer depend as much on experience and intuition to guide decisions related to human performance.

Human error has been documented as a primary contributor to more than 70 per cent of commercial airplane hull-loss accidents. While typically associated with flight operations, human error has also recently become a major concern in maintenance practices and air traffic management.

It has grown increasingly popular as the commercial aviation industry has realised that human error, rather than mechanical failure, underlies most aviation accidents and incidents. If interpreted narrowly, human factors are often considered synonymous with crew resource management (CRM) or maintenance resource management (MRM).

However, it is much broader in both its knowledge base and scope. Human factors involves gathering information about human abilities, limitations, and other characteristics and applying it to tools, machines, systems, tasks, jobs, and environments to produce safe, comfortable, and effective human use.

“In aviation, human factors are dedicated to better understanding how humans can most safely and efficiently be integrated with the technology. That understanding is then translated into design, training, policies, or procedures to help humans perform better,” said Curt Graeber, chief engineer, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Group.

According to him, since improving human performance can help the industry reduce the commercial aviation accident rate, much of the focus is on designing human-airplane interfaces and developing procedures for both flight crews and maintenance technicians.

He noted that Boeing has also continued to examine human performance throughout the airplane to improve usability, maintainability, reliability, and comfort. In addition, human factors specialists participate in analysing operational safety and developing methods and tools to help operators better manage human error.

These responsibilities required the specialists to work closely with engineers, safety experts, test and training pilots, mechanics, and cabin crews to properly integrate human factors into the design of all Boeing airplanes, Graeber added.

Meanwhile, experts in the industry believed that by taking a step back and refocusing our attention to encompass the human elements that can lead to incidents, as well as the technological, physical and environmental factors, investigations are far more efficient.

Furthermore, the likelihood of future incidents is reduced and an organisations’ efficiency, safety performance, safety culture and communication systems can be greatly improved.

They explained that, it is not simply about what happened, changing procedures or trying to control and alter observable behaviours, it is about looking beneath these behaviours in context to understand why and how they occurred and to provide ways of managing human failure so that companies are not only safer but more adaptive and proactive in their approach to safety.

Also that, the knowledge of human factors is also important for the actual investigation process itself if the best results are to be achieved because, although humans are often at the core of a problem, they are crucially part of the solution.

Adding that, an awareness of the psychological aspects of others enables the formation of a productive investigation team, who can work together to produce comprehensive results, and enables effective management of the interviewing, information gathering and dissemination of findings processes.

As recently reported, human factor has been fingered in more than 75 per cent of air accidents and incidents even as technical failures continued to drop as casual factors to air mishaps. The subject of human factor has generated so much attention globally, considering its impact on air safety.

Despite impressive improvement in technology, human beings still play a central role in ensuring safety as they serve as an interface between other components of flight operations including machines and environment.

However much progress in applying human factors to improving aviation safety was made around the time of World War II by people such as Paul Fitts and Alphonse Chapanis. There has also been progress in safety throughout the history of aviation, such as the development of the pilot’s checklist in 1937.

Pilot error and improper communication are often factors in the collision of aircraft. While, the ability of the flight crew to maintain situational awareness is a critical human factor in air safety.

Article credit: Guardian Newspaper

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Updated 4 Years ago
 

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