Edited by Janette Edmonds, Elsevier (

Human Factors in the Chemical and Process Industries

The publishers say this book “helps safety professionals, engineers and operators incorporate human factors considerations within the design and operation of chemical and processing plants”, and I fully concur – but some parts have wider application. All the authors are from Edinburgh’s Keil Centre, with a strong track record of providing advice and practical tools to organisations in the target sectors. And many parts of this lengthy book (nearly 500 pages) reinforce the lessons I’ve learned from working in major hazards sectors since the 1960s. But other parts, especially in s III – Human factors within engineering and design – offer tools that were new to me.




Examples abound; every chapter has a summary of key points plus a list of supporting references.

S IV – Understanding and improving organisational performance – is applicable to other sectors, covering subjects such as organisational change, staffing and workload, competence, supervision, safety-critical communication and performance under pressure.

The summary of ideas to aid employees and their families planning a move between countries is a tool that could be used by any organisation with multinational operations. Other sound advice includes human factors for investigators, dimensions for seated workstations, including distance to a back wall – which I’ve not seen illustrated elsewhere – and managing fatigue. I especially liked the section on “fatigue proofing”, which recognises that, due to factors beyond an organisation’s control, the risk of a person not working sometimes outweighs the risk of them working with fatigue impairment, and suggests how to manage that risk.

One small area of concern is in ch 4, referring to regulators’ activities in the EU, where the terms inspection and auditing are contrasted. The authors suggest that the latter is less in-depth. That might be correct in the specific context but it could be misleading if applied more widely, say to management systems, such as the draft ISO 45001. For such systems, inspection is an element of planned monitoring for compliance with defined standards, while audit is an in-depth examination of a process or system, to identify improvement opportunities, not just compliance – though, sadly, compliance is sometimes all auditors and auditees are looking for.

This book is an excellent compendium of theory, examples and tools. It is a valuable addition to the personal library of experienced OSH professionals and those seeking to develop their competence in human factors and ergonomics. The section on technical and non-technical competencies meshes well with IOSH’s Blueprint tool for planning the next steps in your professional development.


Ian is the Offshore Group communications co-ordinator and also secretary of POOSH Scotland, a coordinating group for OSH-related professional bodies that encourages joint initiatives and sharing of best practices. Ian joined IOSH in 1980 and has been a chartered Fellow since 2005. He has been active as an IOSH volunteer since the early 1980s, has served as a branch and group chair, was on Council for 20 years and was President in 1999-2000. He has chaired a number of IOSH committees and working parties, authored IOSH guides, was a Trustee from 2005-2009 and received a President’s Distinguished Service Certificate in 2010.

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