Mitigating human factors in workplace

by Senior Airman Jimmie D. Pike 86th Airlift Wing Public Affairs

Every day, Airmen get busier as they strive to improve themselves and take on new responsibilities in their careers.

The increasing workload, in conjunction with manning issues and shift schedules, can lead to a loss of quality in work products and overall job performance and can create more safety violations due to human factors if they are not properly managed.

“Human factors are anything that affect performance,” said Master Sgt. Maria Paucar, 86th Airlift Wing Safety office human factors consultant. “The concern is when an Airman does something, their mental or physical state could affect the outcome of a situation. When Airmen do too many things, they may end up becoming overwhelmed.”

While human factors can affect anyone and are present throughout most work places, they typically aren’t a problem unless they go unchecked.

“A majority of workplace incidents involve human factors,” said Capt. Charity Bolling, 86 AW Safety office human factors consultant. “Airmen can control the factors by maintaining a sense of personal responsibility and living a healthy lifestyle.”

Other than personal responsibility, Airmen should also take some responsibility for their wingmen’s safety and health.

“It’s important to monitor your peers, because they may not be aware that they are fatigued (and underperforming),” Paucar said. “The most troubling cases are those that go unrecognized for prolonged periods of time, until it is too late and an accident happens.”

Another simple solution to mitigate human factors is for Airmen to have two-way communication with their supervisors.

“Most supervisors ask their Airmen how their day is going but accept the typical ‘fine’ response,” Paucar said. “Getting to know the Airman is an important step into knowing when they aren’t good to go. Airmen should also not be afraid to tell their supervisor when they may have too much going on and need assistance.”

The key to preventing mishaps from human factors is knowing how to identify them.

“Education and awareness of human factors is the best possible way to eliminate them,” Bolling said. “Knowing the signs of an overworked, stressed-out Airman can help determine if they should take a step back for a bit. Taking care of each is how we remain safe and complete the mission.”