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Designing for Human Reliability - 1st Edition - ISBN: 9780128024218, 9780081005262

Designing for Human Reliability

1st Edition

Human Factors Engineering in the Oil, Gas, and Process Industries

Author: Ronald McLeod
Paperback ISBN: 9780128024218
eBook ISBN: 9780081005262
Imprint: Gulf Professional Publishing
Published Date: 19th March 2015
Page Count: 422
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Industry underestimates the extent to which behaviour at work is influenced by the design of the working environment. Designing for Human Reliability argues that greater awareness of the contribution of design to human error can significantly enhance HSE performance and improve return on investment. Illustrated with many examples, Designing for Human Reliability explores why work systems are designed and implemented such that "design-induced human error" becomes more-or-less inevitable. McLeod demonstrates how well understood psychological processes can lead people to make decisions and to take actions that otherwise seem impossible to understand. Designing for Human Reliability sets out thirteen key elements to deliver the levels of human reliability expected to achieve the return on investment sought when decisions are made to invest in projects. And it demonstrates how investigation of the human contribution to incidents can be improved by focusing on what companies expected and intended when they chose to rely on human performance as a barrier, or control, against incidents.

Key Features

  • Recognise some ‘hard truths’ of human performance and learn about the importance of applying the principles of Human Factors Engineering on capital projects
  • Learn from analysis of real-world incidents how differences between ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ styles of thinking can lead to human error in industrial processes
  • Learn how controls and barrier against major incidents that rely on human performance can be strengthened throughout the design and development of assets and equipment


Oil and Gas Executives; Managers; and Technical Safety, Health and Safety professionals, Process Safety Professionals/Engineers, and Human Factors Engineers

Table of Contents

Part 1: Local rationality at the Formosa Plastics Corporation


  • The principle of Local Rationality

2: The incident

  • Abstract
  • The operator arrived at the wrong reactor
  • The local control panel
  • What did they expect?
  • Commitment and capture
  • Overriding the safety interlock

3: Making sense of Formosa

  • Abstract
  • Why did he conclude that the switch was faulty?
  • Why did he decide to override the safety interlock?
  • Was he aware of the risk?
  • It was easy to do
  • It was difficult to get the necessary approval
  • Summary

Part 2: The scope and value of human factors engineering


4: An introduction to HFE

  • Abstract
  • The HFE star
  • A dual fatality offshore
  • The objectives of HFE
  • Achieving the HFE objectives
  • Summary

5: Costs and benefits of human factors engineering

  • Abstract
  • The costs of design-induced human unreliability
  • Perspectives on the costs and benefits of HFE
  • An example: Before and after HFE
  • How much does it cost to implement an HFE program?
  • Summary

6: Hard truths and principles of human factors engineering

  • Abstract
  • The principles of HFE
  • Hard truths of human performance
  • Summary

7: Critical tasks

  • Abstract
  • The nature of “tasks”
  • Summary

8: HFE and weak signals

  • Abstract
  • The characteristics of weak signals
  • Weak signals and Situation Awareness
  • The Theory of Signal Detection (TSD)
  • Weak signals and human factors engineering
  • Summary

9: Automation and supervisory control

  • Abstract
  • Supervisory control
  • The irony of automation
  • Air France Flight AF447
  • Lessons and challenges from AF447
  • Summary

Part 3: Irrational people in a rational industry


10: The problem with people

  • Abstract
  • The problem with people
  • Deepwater horizon

11: Kahneman

  • Abstract
  • System 1 and System 2 thinking
  • Reconciling Kahneman and Reason

12: Operationalizing some System 1 biases

  • Abstract
  • Availability and affect
  • Anchoring
  • Priming
  • What you see is all there is (WYSIATI)
  • Framing and loss aversion: prospect theory

13: Expert intuition and experience

  • Abstract
  • The experiencing and the remembering self
  • Expert intuition

14: Summary of Part 3

  • Abstract

Part 4: Human Factors in Barrier Thinking


15: What did you expect?

  • Abstract
  • Human factors in incident investigations
  • So what did they expect?

16: Human factors in barrier thinking

  • Abstract
  • Bow-ties as a conceptual model
  • Bow-tie analysis
  • An example bow-tie analysis
  • Assuring the strength of human controls
  • Human factors in control independence
  • The representation of bow-ties
  • Summary

17: Intentions, expectations, and reality

  • Abstract
  • The effectiveness of controls
  • What can a bow-tie analysis reveal of intentions and expectations about human performance?
  • Expectations, intentions, and reality: Lessons from Buncefield
  • Summary

18: Proactive operator monitoring

  • Abstract
  • What does operator monitoring really mean?
  • Job design
  • Work arrangements
  • What information does the operator need to be able to monitor?
  • Control room design
  • The use of human factors standards in the design of control rooms and human-computer interfaces
  • Balancing operator preference and technical standards
  • Proactive monitoring
  • Summary

19: Assuring human barriers

  • Abstract
  • Assurance and auditing
  • Human variability
  • Human factors engineering in the assurance of controls
  • Human reliability analysis
  • How would an experienced professional assure human controls?
  • Summary

20: Reflections on Buncefield

  • Abstract
  • Local rationality at Buncefield
  • Implications for Human Factors Engineering

Part 5: Implementing HFE


21: Implementing HFE in Projects

  • Abstract
  • What goes wrong?
  • What needs to go right?
  • Some questions for investors
  • Summary

22: Human factors and learning from incidents

  • Abstract
  • Purpose of the chapter
  • All incidents are, in principle, avoidable
  • A perspective on learning about the human contribution to incidents: four key questions
  • Establishing the situation
  • Q1: What controls did the organization expect would have prevented the incident?
  • Q2: How did those controls actually perform?
  • Q3: Why did the expected controls not prevent the incident?
  • Q4: How can the controls be strengthened to protect against future incidents?
  • Summary

23: In conclusion

  • Abstract
  • Reflections on local rationality
  • Some research and development topics


No. of pages:
© Gulf Professional Publishing 2015
19th March 2015
Gulf Professional Publishing
Paperback ISBN:
eBook ISBN:

About the Author

Ronald McLeod

Ronald McLeod

Ronald W. McLeod, Ph.D., is a human factor specialist who combines strong academic credentials with more than 30 years industrial experience in Human Factors and Applied Psychology. He founded Nickleby HFE Ltd, in 1990 and was both Managing Director and Technical Director until 2007. His team provided services in applied research and system design across industries including defence, oil and gas, nuclear power, aerospace, and financial services. In 2007, he joined Shell as Global Discipline Lead for Human Factors and continued to work there until February 2014. At Shell, Ron led a global team of Human Factors specialists and was responsible for Shell's Design Engineering Practices on Human Factors Engineering, as well as assurance of technical competence of both Shell and contractors staff. He was also one of Shell's lead Subject Matter Experts on Fatigue Risk Management. He left Shell in February 2014 to pursue interests in writing and now works part-time as an independent consultant. Ron earned a B.Sc degree with Honors in Psychology from the University of Stirling, an M.Sc in Ergonomics from Loughborough University of Technology, and Ph.D. in Engineering and Applied Science from the University of Southampton. He is Honorary Professor of Engineering Psychology at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Ron is a registered member of the Institute of Human Factors and Ergonomics, and is a member of the Human Factors Society and the Society of Petroleum Engineers. He has contributed to numerous industry best practices and guides produced by organizations including IOGP/IPIECA, SPE and the Energy Institute. Ron was an invited member of the Psychology User Panel for the UK's 2003 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2003) and was a member of UK National Advisory Committee on Human Factors from 2001-2006. He was Shell's representative on Human Factors sub-committee of the International Association of Oil and Gas Producers from 2008-2013, a member of Buncefield Industry Working Group #7 (Human Factors) and a member of Working Group 1 of the UK Process Safety Leadership Group.

Affiliations and Expertise

Independent Human Factors Consultant, UK


"My gut feel is that this book could make a big difference in industry. Ron’s hands-on experience, passion and his desire to communicate shine through the book. Read it." - 5 Stars --The Chemical Engineer, Designing for Human Reliability

"Often when people from industry ask me what they should read on Human Factors, I pause, because there are actually few books on the subject that aren’t written by academics for academics. Now, thankfully, there is such a book. It has a solid industry feel to it, and the questions it poses and answers remind me of many discussions I’ve had over the years in numerous industries, but particularly Oil and Gas where the dollar is what really counts.......If you are a manager, engineer, or designer facing human performance issues and wondering what to do about them, read this book." --Barry Kirwan, EUROCONTROL

"Designing for Reliability shows very effectively how human performance can be influenced by workplace design. This is a timely addition to the human factors literature, given the relative lack of attention traditionally paid to the design stage of worksite construction. What is novel about this book is that it is not only about equipment but it also explains clearly how the working environment (e.g. arrangements of pipework, access ladders, gauges and valves) needs to be carefully planned with respect to the cognitive and physical capabilities of the human operators. Ron Mcleod skilfully illustrates just how difficult and expensive it can be to fix dangerous and unworkable layouts after building and manufacturing are completed. Moreover, he reveals how major industrial accidents have occurred with causal deficiencies in the work systems and equipment interfaces.......I would recommend this book for students on engineering, ergonomics and human factors courses. Ron Mcleod’s wide experience in industry, especially in the oil and gas sector, shines through the material. He clearly knows how to discuss human factors with practitioners." --Rhona Flin, Emeritus Professor of Applied Psychology, University of Aberdeen

"Ron McLeod’s book Designing for Human Reliability, in my opinion, fills a gap in the literature on HFE. As inspector for a major hazard company, I can confirm his statement ' … there has been a lack of appreciation of the extent to which the behavior of people at the operational sharp-end (the operators on the workfloor) is shaped or facilitated by the design of the physical and the organizational world they work in'. I also believe that if more decision makers or the people who can influence these decisions read and use the content of this book, this lack of appreciation can be reduced. For this, the book is convincing by delivering the necessary theories and techniques accompanied with an abundance of compelling examples and stories which are spot on in supporting the theories handed over in the book......There is no doubt I loved reading the book. As a final credit: many "softer" topics in Safety I and Safety II were (up to now) too fuzzy for me, although I had read a lot about them. The fuzziness is gone after reading this book!" --Frank Verschueren, Labor and Process Safety Inspector

"McLeod’s book is an in-depth, structured, and careful exploration of human factors engineering—an HFE bible for the layman that also yields insights for those in the HFE field. The examples he provides demonstrate the complexity and multifaceted layers of human factors engineering, showing how organizational drivers can either hinder or support safety and return-on-investment. His concise yet in-depth exploration of a wide array of HFE concepts, with choice examples, had me rethinking incidents I thought I already knew thoroughly, such as the Formosa Plastics Vinyl Chloride multi-fatality incident and the Buncefield tank farm explosion. He shared new thinking on these events and others, expanding beyond a basic HFE approach into the emotional influences of design. I found myself noting many of his ideas for future reference....This book is a compendium of scientific and technical HFE knowledge, all wrapped up in one well-organized resource." -- Cheryl Mackenzie

Ratings and Reviews