Click for next page ( 12


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 11
Introduction THE PANE['S CHARGE The responsibility of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) for ensuring the safety of nuclear power plants is the basis for its human factors research program. Events, some of them near tragic, of the past decade suggest that improvements in that research program are essential to the health of the nuclear indus- try and the safety of nuclear plants and the public. Since the accident in 1979 at the Three Mile Island Unit 2 plant, the nuclear industry and the NRC have become acutely aware of a fact already established in many industries, that human error in some form is responsible for a large proportion of accidents and is a challenge to system safety and productivity (Meister, 1971; Miller and Swain, 1987~. The panel was charged by the NRC "tto] identify study areas in the current and recent programs that may have received inad- equate attention and to provide guidance to the Once of Nuclear Regulatory Research, the Nuclear Regulatory Comrn~ssion (NRC), and other research and development agencies in government, pri- vate industry, and universities regarding an appropriate research program in human factors to enhance the safe operation of nuclear power plants." THE DEFINITION AND ORIGINS OF HUMAN FACTORS Human factors is a multidisciplinary field that draws on the methods, data, and principles of the behavioral and social 11

OCR for page 11
12 sciences, engineering, physiology, anthropometry, biomechanics, and other disciplines to design systems that are compatible with the capabilities and limitations of the people who will use them. Its goal has been to design systems that use human capabilities in appropriate ways, that protect systems from human frailties, and that protect humans from hazards associated with operation of the system. In short, human factors has been an applied science of people In relation to machines. Human factors in the United States had its origins in World War IT, when it was discovered that new technologies were either misused, or could not be used in ways that would fully exploit their potential, because human characteristics had not been ade- quately considered in the design, operation, and maintenance of the technologies. The earliest research and development in the field was con- cerned with how displays and controls should be designed to match the sensory, perceptual, and motor capabilities of their human users. Although limited in scope, it was a novel and successful approach that opened new dimensions and perspectives on sys- tems engineering. As a result of the application of human factors knowledge, for example, high performance aircraft that previously could not be flown safely could be deployed effectively because cockpits had been redesigned around the capabilities of the pilots who would fly them. This early work was greeted with sufficient acclaim to justify research in other areas of what was called "man-machine system design. As time progressed, specialists in human factors were asked to address problems of personnel selection, staffing, train- ing, design of training equipment, protection from unusual and dangerous environments, and the many other factors that must be considered in achieving a habitable environment and a workable symbiosis between people and machines. However, even with this expanded scope questions concerned with the larger sociotechni- cal organization in which a system was embedded were often not addressed. In recent years, however, it has become clear that knowI- edge broader than the traditional scope of human factors must also guide the design of the sociotechnical organizations in which individuals and physical systems interact and function. Just as individual errors can degrade the performance and safety of a system because of the way the hardware interface is designed or

OCR for page 11
13 because of inadequate operator training, so too can errors in the design and management of an organization or the regulation of the overall system degrade system performance. Because of the historical focus, it was natural that in the wake of the Three Mile Island accident the industry and the NRC would look to the operator-plant interface as a potential cause of operator error that might benefit from redesign. While it is clear that proper design of this interface ~ critical to safety, conditions other than the control room interface can also induce error and increase the level of risk in the operation of a plant. These condi- tions can arise from the way in which a system including people, hardware, software, and facilities" is designed to be operated and maintained, the way in which it is organized, managed, and regu- lated, and the way it interfaces with the many other elements of the industry. Recognizing this early in its deliberations, the panel consid- ered the term human factors to include those conditions that affect the performance both of individuals and of organizations. We believe that to ensure safety of nuclear power plant opera- tion it is necessary to address the issues associated with human performance within systems from a view of human factors which encompasses not only the human-machine interface but also the larger sociotechnical system in which it is embedded. The panel used this definition of human factors to assess the long-range hu- man factors research needs of the NRC and the nuclear industry. THE PANEL'S APPROACH: NUCLEAR REACTOR OPERATION AS A SCOIOTECHNICAI SYSTEM Aside from being the worst commercial nuclear accident in the United States up to that time, the events of March 28, 1979, at Three Mile Island axe a case of what Lanir (1986) calls a Fundamental surprise." A fundamental surprise, in contrast to a situational surprise, is the sudden recognition of the incompatibil- ity between one's beliefs and reality what a psychologist would call cognitive dissonance. Examples of fundamental surprise in- clude the 1941 attack on Pear} Harbor and the 1957 launching of Sputnik for the United States, and the 1973 Yom Kippur war for Israel. An appropriate adaptive response to a situational surprise can be derived from existing knowledge. The same is not true, how-

OCR for page 11
14 ever, for an adaptive response to a fundamental surprise. Existing knowledge may offer neither a full explanation of its causes nor a proposal for dealing with it in the future. A fundamental surprise calb for fundamental learning, which occurs in stages rather than by revelation. Small increments of knowledge are acquired and small steps are taken to apply the new knowledge. Ultimately, however, a new knowledge base and belief structure emerge that are capable of handling future surprises. Fundamental learning can sometimes be arrested if it ~ believed that partial knowledge and the solutions derived from it are complete and sufficient. Such a partial response appears to represent that taken by the NRC and the industry since the Three Mile Bland accident. One of the first lessons learned by the industry from Three Mile Island was that the errors made by operators in a control room were a significant contributing factor to the accident and its unsuccessful management. Accident investigations disclosed that these errors were due to a variety of factors: inadequate training, a control room poorly designed for people, questionable emergency operating procedures, and inadequate provisions for the monitoring of the basic parameters of plant functioning. As a result of this early learning, a variety of remedial ac- tivities were undertaken to improve training, encourage the ac- ~ quisition of plant-specific training sunulators, review and improve the human engineering of control rooms, upgrade procedures, in- corporate instrumentation for post-accident monitoring, and add safety parameter display systems to control rooms. In addition, steps were taken to initiate a human factors research program in the NRC, - d the Department of Energy laboratories were called on to support that program. Some utilities hired human factors specialists. The Electric Power Research Institute expanded its human factors research program. It was clear from actions such as these that the first stage in fundamental learning had taken place. The important role played in plant operation and safety by plant crews had been recognized, as had the realization that existing knowledge on this role was incomplete. Encouraging as this was in the process of implementing the lessons learned from Three Mile Island, the actors involved appear to have come to treat the accident as a mere situational sur- prise and to apply purely technical solutions to human problems. This is a reaction that might be expected of a community with a

OCR for page 11
15 strongly established engineering culture. The lesson that was not yet fully learned was that, in reality, the operation of a nuclear power system is far more complex than had previously been sup- posed: it is a technical system embedded within a much larger, more complex, sociotechnical system of people, organizations, and regulations that interact with one another in ways that are not yet understood. The words "systems and "systems are used in several senses which should be clear from the context. A Systems in the report is an interconnected set of parts making up a whole entity which has a common purpose. Thus, in one context we may speak of the "emergency core cooling system" meaning all that equipment which together is designed to cool the reactor core in emergencies. We may speak of the Human-machine systems and mean the combination of human and reactor, turbine, etc. which collectively make up a nuclear power plant. Or we may talk of the man- agement and organizational system and mean those subgroups of humans responsible for setting policy, making rules, etc. to govern the behavior of those who operate the nuclear power plant. By a "sociotechnical systems we mean the combination of plant hard- ware whose behavior is governed by physical laws, humans whose individual behaviors are governed by the laws of biology and psy- chology of individuals, and the interaction of the social group of the humans involved in nuclear power plant operation, manage- ment, and maintenance where the interactions are governed by the hierarchies, pressures, ant] influences of social forces. On the other hand, by a Systems approach we mean a way of looking at a nuclear power plant not as composed of components whose properties can be examined in isolation, but rather as a collection of components including human components, each of whose properties affects and is affected by the others dynamically from moment to moment, so that to predict the performance of any component requires that one consider the state of, in general, many others. Figure 1 illustrates the principal elements of this sociotechnical system. The innermost layer represents the physical system the nuclear power plant. The interface between it and the individuals who operate and maintain it often called the "human-machine interface" is represented by Boundary A. This boundary has been the focus of traditional human factors engineering. The per- formance of the individuals on one side of this interface and plant

OCR for page 11
16 ENVIRONMENTAL CONTEXT ORGANIZATIONAUMANAGEMENT INFRASTRUCTURE PERSONNEL SUBSYSTEM TECH N ICAU B ENGINEERING | SYSTEM . | A _ _ C B FIGURE 1 Components of an integrative system safety analysis. Adapted from Shikiar (1985).

OCR for page 11
17 systems on the other is influenced by its design. However, the display and control interface Is but one piece of the picture be- cause the performance of these individuals is affected by more than displays ant! controls. The cognitive processing of operators, personnel selection policies and methods, training and training devices, procedures, and the less tangible but potent effects of mo- tivation, group interaction, boredom, fatigue, stress, and morale all play a role. These areas are traditionally the realm of industrial psychology. As we move out from the center of Figure 1, we see that the people in the plant (the personnel subsystem) operate in an or- ganizational environment that results from management decisions concerning organizational design and structure. There appears to be a great deal of recognition on the part of the NRC and the nuclear industry of the crucial role played by management leader- ship in safe operations. What is less frequently recognized is that at this level of analysis a number of important research questions can be posed, the answers to which may result in improvements to safety.* This level of analysis is the traditional realm of manage- ment sciences and organizational behavior research. It is important to recognize that the nuclear power plant and its personnel and management Al operate within an economic, political, and social context, as shown in the outer layer of Figure 1. This level of analysis recognizes that safety is influenced by production and profit pressures, public support or opposition to the nuclear power plant, relations between the various regulators and the utility management, as weD as the specific policies and actions of the regulators. While it is easy to see how this level of analysis affects public health and safety, it is more difficult to see how this could be the subject of research. Nevertheless, we identify it as an important area to be investigated by economists, political scientists, and lawyers for research approaches that may be offered by these disciplines to improve safety. The pane} firmly believes that research that recognizes a sys- terrls approach, with the "systems broadly defined as in Figure * In this report to increase safety is to decrease the probability that people, property, or environment will be harmed by some event arising from the construction, existence, or operation of a nuclear power plant; to decrease safety is to increase that probability.

OCR for page 11
18 1, has great potential for delivering results that yield useful rec- ommendations for safety improvements. Failure to recognize the effects of the outer layers of Figure 1 on safety may result in valid improvements to safety being unimplemented or ineffectively implemented because management or environmental constraints were ignored. At best, approaches to improving plant safety that do not recognize these constraints will be incomplete. The systems approach points out that risk estimates by im- plication embody a design and operation philosophy for the plant. These probabilities, at best, can be correct only if the plant is operated in accordance with the assumptions made by those per- forming the risk analysis. But those assumptions are not usually made explicit, or at least they are not explicitly incorporated into training, the design of operating procedures, and other elements of plant operation. Unless the assumptions made during risk analysis are explicit as an operating philosophy, there can be no guarantee that even the best estimates are valid at any moment. Any changes in operating practices, maintenance practices, or other functions must be fed back into a further risk analysis, which in turn should feed forward into the management and operational philosophy. The aim of the research program proposed by the pane} in the report is to suggest such changes in regulation, management, and operations, which would lead to a formal statement of research philosophy. Research will suggest changes in design, procedures, and op- eration, but by themselves these changes will not guarantee safe operation, and by itself research cannot guarantee safety. Research must be used in a coherent philosophical framework. In engineer- ing it is standard practice to control error by a feedback system. Controlling human error, and hence human-induced or human- exacerbated risk, should be done in the same way. Human factors research should be seen not as an answer to a question about risk, but as a control signal in a feedback system. Risk analysis sug- gests aspects of operation that require modification because they are prone to the effects of human error. Research suggests ways to change human behavior so as to reduce human error. The results of these changes alter the values in the risk analysis. Further risk analysis and task analysis of new methods of operation will sug- gest further changes in operation or new candidates for sources of human error and the cycle will repeat.

OCR for page 11
19 In the past, viewing research as the answer to a specific ques- tion has led to the classic and common mistake that is seen in the operation of complex systems. The removal or change in value of a single variable leads not only to a local result but also to complex interactions that propagate through the system in often unpredictable ways. This is as true of research on the human components of a system as it is of any other component. If the results of research are to lead in a direct and practical way to the reduction of error and the reduction of risk, then research must be coupled to reliability analysis and to management, oper- ations, maintenance, and regulation, so that an effective control signal is sent through the system. The NRC must conduct regu- latory research on the problem of coupling the control signals of research to their reliability and risk analysis so as to optimize the control operations, not just to answer questions and accumulate knowledge. A SCENARIO To emphasize the need for a sociotechnical approach, consider a control room crew confronted suddenly by a burst of alarms indicating that an abnormal transient has occurred. What will determine whether they are able to handle the emergency? The quality of displays is of course critical. Their layout and legibility affect the time required to locate and read them. Whether they display raw data or derived measures affects the extent to which short-term memory and complex cognitive pro- cesses will be demanded of the crew. The layout of controls and whether they conform to stimulus-response stereotypes affect the probability that an operator will press the button or activate the intended switch. Software and hardware that have desirable properties from the point of view of engineers and computer specialists may be Biscuit to use. A crew member may know what information is needed but be unable to obtain it because of the characteristics of computer graphics or data bases. How long does the system take to repaint the screen? At what distance and from what direction can it be read? Does the display symbology support the way in which the operator processes information, or is it merely determined by the way the nuclear engineer describes the physics of the system? Such matters should influence computer system decisions.

OCR for page 11
20 The operator's ability to deal with an abnormal or emergency event, even at the level of reading displays, can be affected by regulation and management style, as much as by the design of displays. For example, the ability of operators to respond to emer- gencies is affected by fatigue and motivation. The structure and organization of shift work will also affect operator efficiency, due to disruptions in biological circadian rhythms. A management insen- sitive to comments by operators about their working conditions, or that penalizes operators for inconsequential infringements in mat- ters such as dress codes, may obtain obedience to rules but will not encourage participation in the pursuit of excellence. Civilians do not adopt "military styles voluntarily and may resent them if imposed by management. Management, whose experience may have been predominantly with military systems, may find it hard to tolerate "civilian" attitudes. An undeserved rebuke for failing to follow ambiguous directions can destroy morale in an instant and make it difficult to rebuild for many months. Now consider another area: plant maintenance. How is it organized? Are maintenance personnel adequately trained? Are they encouraged to play an active role in developing good main- tenance practices, or do they see their role as merely to carry out commands but show no initiative? Does management fee! di- rectly responsible for the quality of maintenance and, in return, encourage maintenance people to fee} a pride in their work? Do maintenance personnel fee} that they are part of a team with the operators? Do they communicate with each other? Do mainte- nance people understand the significance of the details of their work and its effect on operations? Do the design engineers design for maintainability? Do they choose components that force the operator to use them correctly, thus minimizing error? If mainte- nance is poor, operators will know they cannot trust the hardware and software, and lack of trust between human and machine can be expected to have as devastating an effect on their cooperation as can a lack of trust between people. THE NEED FOR AN INTERDISCIPLINARY APPROACH Good hardware with poor management leads to Tow morale, inefficiency, and errors. Good management with poor hardware leads to distrustful and stressful operation. Hardware decision

OCR for page 11
21 change the work of operators; manning levels affect training; reg- ulations affect the designs or design changes, the manning and training methods, and the work group organization that can in principle be considered. The eject of a change to any part of a system may necessitate changes that require inputs from a great variety of disciplines. Changes to design, operations, and main- tenance research and proposals for innovation by one discipline should be planned and reviewed by several disciplines. The very high rate of change in technology today has already created a context in which human factors and social science pro- fessionals work with engineers, computer scientists, and others to provide complementary research skills required in an age of information and cognitive science. As the roles of level of automa- tion, degree of supervisory control, and use of artificial intelligence and robotics increase, it should become increasingly common for behavioral scientists to work with mechanical and electrical en- gineers, since no single discipline has the expertise to solve both technical and human systems interaction problems. In a comparable way, there has been a growing realization that human Interaction In groups and organizations is as central to safety and efficiency as is the interaction of a human with a machine. Within small groups, the dynamics of social interaction can determine whether behavior is cooperative or antagonistic. The efficiency, content, and style of communication both within groups such as control room crews and between different levels in the hierarchy from management downward can have a major im- pact on safety, on morale, and on the attitudes of supervisors and workers. Whether the question is how best to integrate the shift technical advisor into the crew, how to facilitate timely exchange of information between operators and maintenance crews, how to encourage personnel to report near-miss incidents in a constructive way and how to encourage management and the NRC to use such reports, or how to communicate effectively with regulators and the public, organizational factors are, in many cases, paramount. Because of the range of topics that require research, we be- lieve it is important to open the door to experts from a wider range of fields than traditional human factors. Consequently, we see a need to complement human factors work with research activ- ities in the social and behavioral sciences, including organizational theory and management science. Research on safety and reliabil- ity should include human factors and organizational behavioral

OCR for page 11
22 research and should be performed by teams of professionals from these different disciplines. In Europe the response to the changing nature of advanced technological systems has already been to in- clude in research teams representatives from topics as far-ranging as linguistics and anthropology in an effort to understand the way in which communication and displays affect decision making and problem solving. Today, the knowledge base that can account for the perfor- mance of the sociotechnical system we describe is at best frag- mented, weak, and incomplete in many areas. In some respects its complexity appears to defy description and analysis. Yet, if the goal of improved nuclear safety is to be realized, the task of developing an understanding of nuclear power generation as a sm ciotechnical system must commence. And the initial step in this process must be informed by a program of research that calls on the expertise of the many disciplines that can contribute to this understanding. Before Three Mile Island, a plant was primarily perceived as a technical entity. After Three Mile Island, this view was enlarged to include the human-machine interface, primarily in the control room, and largely directed at measures to strengthen that interface. This was the first necessary, but not sufficient, step to achieving the goal of a reliable, safe system of nuclear power production. To ensure public safety, it is critical that the nuclear industry use a multidisciplinary approach to establish a research program to identify and evaluate means of improving safety.