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Safety at Anglo American: Human Factor Analysis (HFA)

Safety is one of our core values and that’s why it’s important we tackle it in innovative ways throughout Anglo American. Here, we speak to our senior safety specialist and psychologist Yolande Muller about the psychology of mining safety and Human Factor Analysis (HFA).

Every time we have a high potential incident or loss of life, we conduct an investigation to find out not just what happened, but why it happened.

What is distinctive about Anglo American’s approach to these investigations is that we include the use of a psychology-based technique called Human Factor Analysis (HFA).

HFA is the technical term for working out the people, behaviour and cultural factors that played a role in an accident. This is important because those factors often point to either a root cause of what happened (those things that, if corrected, would prevent similar incidents) or important contributing causes (an event or condition that together with other causes increase the likelihood of an incident but which individually did not cause the incident).

How does HFA work?

The first step is to identify what are called Significant Inappropriate Behaviours - SIBs for short. 

These are essentially the actions taken that contributed to the accident. We do this through input from subject matter experts as well as structured interviews with those involved and working on site.

Once identified, each Significant Inappropriate Behaviour is further analysed to determine:

  • Its classification - the type of error or violation.
  • What led to or motivated it.

To find out the latter, we analyse behaviour on three different levels:

  • Personal: This includes aspects like an individuals’ mental state, capability, fitness, situational awareness as well as team-related elements such as leadership, cohesion, dynamics, process and diversity. It provides us with a clearer picture of what was going on at the time for the people directly involved.
  • Workplace: This examines the environment, the task itself, the sense of tolerance (manageability, control, meaning, purpose) and engagement (energy, absorption, identification and buy-in). It reveals the wider workplace context within which the incident occurred.
  • Organisational: This focuses on corporate imperatives ( such as strategy, standards and accountability), decision-making processes and links with leadership. It reveals the role that the organisational culture played.

When complete, the analysis reveals which of a range of behavioural factors played the biggest contributory role in the incident. 

What difference does this analysis make?

After conducting this analysis on six incident investigations last year, some clear themes emerged. We found for example that there were some behavioural factors that always contributed to SIB including:

  • Leadership: Whether leaders visibly drive work engagement and safety mind-set.
  • Change: If changes in strategy, values, systems, practices and standards are adequately communicated and managed.
  • Awareness: The extent to which an individual knows what is going on around him/her.

This information will inform changes made throughout Anglo American to help improve safety. People are our business, and our first priority is to do everything we can to keep them safe and well. 

Find out more about safety at Anglo American.

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