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Understanding safety and production risks in rail engineering planning and protection

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Much of the published human factors work on risk is to do with safety and within this is concerned with prediction and analysis of human error and with human reliability assessment. Less has been published on human factors contributions to understanding and managing project, business, engineering and other forms of risk and still less jointly assessing risk to do with broad issues of 'safety' and broad issues of 'production' or 'performance'. This paper contains a general commentary on human factors and assessment of risk of various kinds, in the context of the aims of ergonomics and concerns about being too risk averse. The paper then describes a specific project, in rail engineering, where the notion of a human factors case has been employed to analyse engineering functions and related human factors issues. A human factors issues register for potential system disturbances has been developed, prior to a human factors risk assessment, which jointly covers safety and production (engineering delivery) concerns. The paper concludes with a commentary on the potential relevance of a resilience engineering perspective to understanding rail engineering systems risk. Design, planning and management of complex systems will increasingly have to address the issue of making trade-offs between safety and production, and ergonomics should be central to this. The paper addresses the relevant issues and does so in an under-published domain - rail systems engineering work.
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Keywords: engineering risk; function analysis; human factors risk; resilience engineering; risk assessment, rail

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of M3, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK,School of Risk and Safety Science, University of New South Wales, Australia 2: Institute for Occupational Ergonomics, University of Nottingham, UK 3: Network Rail, London, UK 4: Human Factors Risk Management, London, UK

Publication date: July 1, 2009

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