Human behaviour and the link accidents in the workplace

There are a number of human factors that can impact on health and safety behaviour at work.

The three key aspects are:

  • The job
  • The individual
  • The organisation

As technical systems become more reliable, focus turns to the human causes of accidents.

People are involved throughout the life cycle of an organisation, from design through to operation, maintenance, and management.

Accidents may not just be associated with the behaviour of the individuals directly involved in the activity, but the result of behaviour throughout the team and business.

Regulations and requirements

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act places duties on all persons at work, including employees. Everyone must play a part in creating a safe working environment and an accident-free workplace.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations require hazards to be identified, risks assessed and controlled.

Everyone has a legal and moral responsibility to take reasonable care of their own health and safety and to safeguard the health and safety of those they work with and members of the public. To do this, it is important to be aware of the hazards you are exposed to, and the safety precautions in place to protect you.

Employees must co-operate with their employer and supervisors in anything done in the interest of health welfare and safety, and not interfere with anything provided in the interests of health welfare and safety.

How does behaviour contribute to accidents?

Some failures can leave you with no room for error and can have an immediate impact on health and safety. People tend not to make errors deliberately, they may misinterpret a situation and act inappropriately or they may for different reasons regularly cut corners.

Delayed failures can occur if there are issues such as;failures in health and safety management, poor design of plant and equipment, ineffective training or ineffective communications.

How do you promote a positive safety culture in the workplace?

Everyone is vulnerable and at risk by everyone’s actions and it follows that everyone has a role to play when creating a positive safety culture.

Protective behaviours can be easy to carry out and include things like ensuring that controls are in place to protect people and that these controls are effective and understood.

In order to promote a positive safety culture leaders should ensure that:

  • Everyone is committed to health and safety at all levels
  • Everyone is responsible for reporting unsafe acts or failures
  • Everyone has access to health and safety training
  • Everyone should be fully informed and instructed
  • Everyone should cooperate and communicate


It is estimated that up to 80% of accidents at work can be attributed, at least in part, to the behaviour of people.

Well-designed tasks and working environments that suit individual skills and capabilities can help improve behaviour towards health and safety.

Everyone’s behaviour and attitude towards safety is important to create a safe working environment for all.

Everyone should be safe at work!