Anecdotal evidence suggests that rail vehicle maintenance has received less Human Factors input in comparison with other sectors (aviation) or other areas of rail safety. It was also believed that although Human Factors is tackled informally there is less evidence of a formal process for applying Human Factors good practice.
Maintenance and inspection procedures are largely dependant on humans and maintenance tasks provide considerable opportunity for human error to occur.
No one intends for errors to happen, but psychology informs us that by our nature humans are prone to error and it is inevitable that mistakes will be made from time to time.
Rail vehicle maintenance and inspection is still very reliant on people to carry out the work. If these errors are not controlled they can lead to the occurrence of serious incidents.
Performance on maintenance tasks is heavily influenced by the design of the task and by wider organisational issues. Many incidents associated with maintenance error are therefore a product of the work system.
These errors can therefore be addressed by giving consideration to Human Factors and by seeking to make improvements to different areas of work, for example:
- Task design
- Work planning
- Training and competence
- Organisational and safety culture
- Quality and procedures
- Fitness to work
- Environment issues
- Provision of tools and equipment
- Maintenance error reporting and monitoring
Guidance package development
Importantly the work undertaken was conducted in close collaboration with a steering group representing the interests of the rail industry.
A number of key activities were undertaken to develop the guidance, for example:
- Identification of good practices using interviews and observations of work using contacts within the rail industry;
- Development of a Human Factors framework to bring together good practice under a series of generic headings;
- Development of the evidence base for Human Factors issues impacting on maintenance performance and their potential costs if these issues are left unaddressed (collection and analysis of both national and depot data);
- Development of the structure and content of the guidance package;
- Case studies (applied the guidance using a paper version of the guidance).
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