During the 2023 SAFETY4SEA Limassol Forum, Dr. Maria Progoulaki, Senior Consultant, Green-Jakobsen A/S, focused on the link between human factors and human performance, highlighting that we must manage people-related situations and promote a culture where we act before anything goes wrong.
hroughout the last 2 decades, Green-Jakobsen has been collecting insight from thousands of survey respondents in the areas of safety and human performance and over 3,000 hours of interviewing office and ship personnel to learn how they do their jobs.
Many shipping companies are having difficulty developing a strong and proactive safety culture. Despite their greatest efforts, often the outcome falls short of their expectations as they are unable to adjust to the changing environment. There are also companies who argue that because everything seems to be working fine, as evidenced by their safety report scores, why go through the hassle of doing something else?
If something works well don’t touch it
… goes a Greek saying, yet, what happens in an organization when nothing negative happens? In this aspect, as a shipping company’s HSQE Manager said regarding safety culture:
I wasn’t focused on the actual result, like it was a KPI or an objective. In fact, there was no obvious reason to start with a safety initiative; but that’s a more complacent way of looking at it. We wanted to be proactive and use our LTI-free years to react to the chronic unease. It is more to shake the tree to make sure that we are not complacent and to keep our focus alive
So, good safety records can be indications of chronic unease and a need to look out for complacency.
Human factors and performance
Human factors have garnered a lot of attention recently. This is because the industry has been working to build a strong safety culture for many years. Using technology, the industry has attempted to make transportation safer. High-tech vessels and thorough safety protocols have raised the bar for safety culture to new heights.
Nevertheless, at the end of the day, the safety of assets, the environment, and human lives is still dependent on how individuals conduct their jobs. Companies rely on humans to drive, direct, and decide on performance.
Alas, context significantly influences performance. The context is where humans engage with themselves, with each other, with the environment, the procedures, the hardware, etc.
Managing human factors
Human error can be reduced through mastering human factor management. It is possible to reduce fatalities, serious accidents, injuries, and the risk of losing money or reputation. However, it necessitates influencing how individuals think and behave. For us, managing human factors requires that people become aware of the factors that influence -positively and negatively- their thinking and how they behave. People need to become aware of how they make decisions and make judgements, before they are vetted/ audited/evaluated for their performance.
The idea is to call attention to what is vital and to assist individuals to realize what is more important to concentrate on. In this endeavour, tools for reviewing how they think, behave, and make decisions can be used. In general, performance is judged as a result, but the emphasis should be on taking a step back, into letting individuals think before deciding. Therefore, focus should be on improving the judgment process rather than judgement of the result.
It has been proven that by providing people with the opportunity to examine, reflect, and speak openly, better decisions and judgments can be reached before any action is taken. Behaviour can become the visible evidence of a strong safety lifestyle. This lifestyle will reflect the organization’s safety culture.
Review human factors
By focusing on individual performance, more synergies on team level can be generated, which enhance and elevate performance in these three levels. At all three levels, there are techniques to direct attention to what is important.
- Individual: As evidenced by the process of performance appraisal, the concept of managing performance on individual level is very much related on how objectives are set, how they are reflected in behaviors, how the performed behavior is evaluated, and how much and how well feedback is given. The feedback is then to be examined on how constructive it is and how much room is given to people to own their own learning and development.
- Team/crew/departmental: There are tools to support people in their efforts to review team performance, to get input from team polls and to get a collective picture of the present situation.
- Corporate: At this level, the focus is to set the objectives and the strategy. Resources should be provided as well as context. It is also important to keep the pace. All efforts need to be active.
What we have versus what we need
It’s time for people to think and realize their potential. Humans make decisions based on experience. This may seem efficient, but experience is biased and includes a person’s prejudice. Currently, these short of practices are predominant, however, the aim should be get at a more holistic view.
Being open to other perspectives can immensely benefit individuals and teams and lead to the development of collective intelligence. This is the kind of intelligence that people are unaware of until they start talking to one other.
Different ways of thinking lead to a different way of making decisions. It’s easier to evaluate what went wrong after an event has taken place. However, the goal is to direct thought and attention before any action is taken, taking into consideration the different perspectives of each team member.
In order to bridge the work as expected to the work as done, the opportunity has to be present for individuals to manage their way of thinking and behaving. To achieve that, they must be given tools to reflect, review and be open to discussions.
People will always experience unique situations; nonetheless, work should be centered on providing them with the resources they need to comprehend each occurrence. We need a holistic competence to constantly evaluate unique situations.
Furthermore, context and how humans interact with other, and the environment will always have an impact on performance. The dynamics that are associated with the concept of human factors should not be disregarded. The industry has the opportunity to shed light on this issue and strive for something more than the bare minimum.
Finally, behavior can be altered by directing attention and providing people with the necessary skills to think, analyze, listen, and discuss. All organizations should provide environments in which people can conduct individual and team reviews on a regular basis.
The above article has been edited from Dr. Maria Progoulaki’s presentation during the 2023 SAFETY4SEA Limassol Forum.
Explore more by watching her video presentation here below
The views presented are only those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of SAFETY4SEA and are for information sharing and discussion purposes only.