Chapter 18: Human Factors and Ergonomics Practice in the Nuclear Industry: Helping to Deliver Safety in a High-Hazard Industry

by Clare Pollard

Practitioner summary

The application of human factors/ergonomics (HF/E) in the nuclear industry provides practitioners with opportunities to design systems and processes, whilst ensuring the safety of workers and the public. There are multiple features that make the industry unique such as the regulatory regime, political aspects, public perception, timescales, level of detail and the hazards. The safety case for a nuclear facility requires qualitative and quantitative elements. It is a challenging industry with many different types of project from building new facilities to decommissioning ageing plants.

Chapter quotes

“The variety of the nuclear industry is incredible, and includes power stations, research facilities, control rooms, cranes, remote operations, building new plant, defence sites, submarines, weapons, nuclear medicine, medical diagnostic equipment, waste processing and storage facilities, and former research and reactor sites.”

“Nuclear projects are so different, with constraints and requirements so unique, that you are constantly learning new systems and processes as you move from project to project. This learning takes place on the job, developed during operator interviews, plant walkdowns, project briefings, etc. The majority of projects are one-offs and so you have to learn each time about specific project constraints, operating requirements, plant history, etc. ”

“…there is a tendency for HF/E practitioners to be regarded as a jack-of-all-trades, with an understanding of a wide range of HF/E areas and an ability to integrate many aspects of HF/E into projects, rather than an expert in one area or method of application.”

“Project constraints on aspects such as environment or ageing plant interface design have to be traded off against the safety of the operator and the public. As such, trade-offs and compromises sometimes have to be made to ensure the most appropriate solution for all stakeholders.”

Practitioner reflections

Reflection by Dave Moore (co-author of Chapter 27)

This chapter reinforces my belief that it is essential for the successful HF/E practitioner to have thorough sector knowledge, preferably gained through bottom-up experiences.


About stevenshorrock

This blog is written by Dr Steven Shorrock. I am interdisciplinary humanistic, systems and design practitioner interested in human work from multiple perspectives. My main interest is human and system behaviour, mostly in the context of safety-related organisations. I am a Chartered Ergonomist and Human Factors Specialist with the CIEHF and a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society. I currently work as a human factors and safety specialist in air traffic control in Europe. I am also Adjunct Associate Professor at University of the Sunshine Coast, Centre for Human Factors & Sociotechnical Systems. I blog in a personal capacity. Views expressed here are mine and not those of any affiliated organisation, unless stated otherwise. You can find me on twitter at @stevenshorrock or email contact[at]humanisticsystems[dot]com.
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