00Institute of Leadership - Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Human Factors

Humanfactors are a core part of the subject of patient safety.  The UK Healthand Safety Executive provide a widely accepted definition of HumanFactors.  “Human factors refer to environmental, organisational and jobfactors, and human and individual characteristics which influence behaviour atwork in a way that which can affect health and safety. A simple way to viewhuman factors is to think about three aspects: the job, the individual, and theorganisation and how they impact on people’s health and safety-relatedbehaviour” (HSE, 1999, p2 cited in Flin et al, 2009).

Oureducation and training programmes seek to optimize the safety performance ofthe individual, team and organisation by focusing on the following topics.






1. Safety culture

2. Managers’ leadership

3. Communication





4. Teamwork

5. Team leadership

Individual Worker


Cognitive (thinking) skills


6. Situation awareness

7. Decision making

Personal resources

8. Stress management

9. Emotional intelligence

Work Environment




10. Work environment and hazards

(Adaptedfrom Flin et al, 2009)

Flin et al (2009) HumanFactors in Patient Safety: Review of Topics and Tools.  Report for Methodsand Measures Working Group of WHO Patient Safety. Geneva: World HealthOrganisation.