Research Expertise in Occupational Psychology

and Human Factors

RESEARCH

Gain unprecedented insight

The Human Factors team includes psychologists and management-science specialists from the University of Hull. With extensive research experience in the effect of human factors in work systems, the team has particular expertise in occupational stress risk and fatigue and long-standing track-records in applied research, including in offshore wind, policing, call centres and local government.

The team is led by Professor Fiona Earle, a Chartered Occupational Psychologist with 20 years’ experience of applied collaborative research in occupational stress risk management. Professors Malcolm Higgs & Terry Williams bring vast experience of applied management-science, having both been Deans of University Business Schools with extensive research and industry engagement. The team have secured £millions in research income and applied research and consultancy, and have extensive collaboration networks. Our team’s research impact was recently rated excellent by the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021 Panel, and the University of Hull achieved impressive results overall. Read more…

OUR RESEARCH AREAS

Safety and Productivity in Offshore Wind Technician Transit (SPOWTT)

Fatigue – Experimental and Psychometric Analysis

Occupational Stress Risk Assessment

RESEARCH AREA

Safety and Productivity in Offshore Wind Technician Transit (SPOWTT)

SPOWTT is a complex, multidisciplinary, multinational project which aims to address an important health and safety issue for marine transit of technicians working in offshore wind operations and maintenance (O&M).  The central objective of the project is to develop an evidence-based, open access tool to support the ‘sail/no sail’ decision process for marine coordinators authorising O&M technician work. Weather, sea state and vessel motion is monitored alongside psychological and physiological measures to assess the complex relationships between environmental conditions of transit and the impact on technicians.  These data will be combined to create a model, and then a tool, that will support the Marine Coordinator to 1) launch, 2) not launch, or 3) to launch with certain control measures.  At its conclusion, this project will have produced an open access decision making framework that can be utilised by marine coordinators across the OSW industry. The resulting tool will allow decisions to be made which are grounded in evidence of the human impact of sailing in different conditions.

RESEARCH AREA

Fatigue: Experimental and
Psychometric Analysis

A new approach to risk assessment

The Centre of Human Factor’s fatigue management programmes are built on our years of research into fatigue risk. They are designed to apply our learning to help businesses improve safety, performance, productivity and retention of experienced and valuable personnel.

We work with you to:

  • Improve motivation, health and wellbeing in the workplace.
  • Identify and address stressors that contribute to fatigue in the workplace.
  • Employ positive work design that underpins a safe and healthy work environment, with a beneficial influence on your employees’ lives and work experience.

Workforce sustainability

Fatigue management investigates the multiple causes and manifestations of fatigue in organisations, and the risks that result from these.

Each organisation has a unique range of fatigue related factors and opportunities for improvement.

Our interventions improve employee fatigue management to prevent fatigue from becoming a dangerous and unhealthy issue. These protective factors encompass:

  • High intrinsic motivation
  • Good colleague and managerial support
  • Positive health and safety culture
  • Tools and opportunity for fulfilling recovery
  • Thoughtful shift design with well-timed breaks
  • Optimal sleep quantity
  • Restorative sleep quality
  • Positive work/life balance.

The underpinning research

We have undertaken a comprehensive investigation of the complexities of fatigue, in order to aid in the development of effective fatigue management strategies in the offshore wind turbine industry. Our review expands beyond the standard focus on shift times and sleep opportunity. While the research model was developed for a unique work environment, it is adapted to a diverse range of organisations and professions.

What is fatigue?

Subjective experience of tiredness, telling us that it is time either rest, or switch tasks to one that is more intrinsically rewarding.

Fatigue is cumulative, stressors experienced over preceding days and weeks can build and impact present fatigue if appropriate recovery has not occurred.

Compensatory Control

Fatigue results in compensatory control whereby the person will focus on the primary task, but performance on secondary tasks will decrease. For example, safety protocols become secondary to completing a work task, resulting in safety issues. Operator fatigue is attributed to Chernobyl and the BP oil refinery disasters.

When we are unable to easily switch tasks, fatigue can cause:

  • Decreased concentration
  • Slower reaction times
  • Corner cutting, high risk behaviour
Long term problems

Failure to address fatigue can cause long-term health and wellbeing problems. This is a risk in all work places, particularly in high hazard environments, and shift work.

Fatigue stressors
  • Low intrinsic motivation
  • Low control work conditions
  • Mental demands/effort
  • Circadian imbalance
  • Physical demands/effort
  • Cumulative stress
  • Emotional demands/effort
  • Cumulative fatigue
  • Poor sleep
  • Poor recovery (waking time)
Fatigue manifestations

Mental fatigue

Usually experienced when engaging in complex or prolonged mental tasks. Mental fatigue is particularly associated with corner cutting behaviour.

Physical fatigue

Normally experienced after physical work (e.g. climbing) and associated with aches, pains and the need for physical recovery.

Sleepiness

Associated with sleep deprivation and circadian fluctuations. Makes other aspects of fatigue more likely to occur sooner and can cause microsleeps and concentration lapses.

Emotional fatigue

Generally experienced after intense of difficult emotional stimulation. This is closely related to mental fatigue, but as well as general fatigue consequences, this is associated with burnout.

RESEARCH AREA

Occupational Stress
Risk Assessment

Our team specialises in undertaking bespoke occupational stress risk assessments. Employers have a legal duty of care that extends to mental health, and the requirement is that all organisations should do a risk assessment of the work-related causal factors in stress, and then act on the findings. In 2004, the Health and Safety Executive published the Management Standards to enable organisations to ensure their risk assessment methods are aligned with the evidence base around the causes of stress in the workplace. Our stress risk assessment methods are based around the Management Standards framework, enabling sector benchmarking. We support organisations in undertaking the assessment process using the HSE’s Management Standards Stress Indicator Tool (SIT) and interpreting the findings. In many organisations, it is also of value to go beyond the risks highlighted in the SIT by undertaking a bespoke stress risk assessment. We manage this process end-to-end, gathering qualitative data across key areas of organisations to understand the unique risks facing the workforce within a given organisation or sector. We then use this to develop a bolt-on to the SIT that measures the prevalence of the unique risks across a larger sample. We then support interpretation of the findings, providing recommendations for priority areas for intervention, and supporting the action planning process.

RELATED SERVICES

We also offer Consultancy, specialising in
the Public Sector, Oil and Gas, Renewables, and Emergency Services

See our Consulting services