Human Error and Commercial Aviation Accidents: An Analysis Using the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System

Clemson University, Department of Industrial Engineering, 121 Freeman Hall, Box 340920, Clemson, SC 29634-0920, USA.
Human Factors The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (Impact Factor: 1.69). 05/2007; 49(2):227-42. DOI: 10.1518/001872007X312469
Source: PubMed


The aim of this study was to extend previous examinations of aviation accidents to include specific aircrew, environmental, supervisory, and organizational factors associated with two types of commercial aviation (air carrier and commuter/ on-demand) accidents using the Human Factors Analysis and Classification System (HFACS).
HFACS is a theoretically based tool for investigating and analyzing human error associated with accidents and incidents. Previous research has shown that HFACS can be reliably used to identify human factors trends associated with military and general aviation accidents.
Using data obtained from both the National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration, 6 pilot-raters classified aircrew, supervisory, organizational, and environmental causal factors associated with 1020 commercial aviation accidents that occurred over a 13-year period.
The majority of accident causal factors were attributed to aircrew and the environment, with decidedly fewer associated with supervisory and organizational causes. Comparisons were made between HFACS causal categories and traditional situational variables such as visual conditions, injury severity, and regional differences.
These data will provide support for the continuation, modification, and/or development of interventions aimed at commercial aviation safety.
HFACS provides a tool for assessing human factors associated with accidents and incidents.

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    • "HFACS was first developed for the aviation accident investigation (Shappell and Wiegmann, 2000, 2001). In the last decade, the HFACS model was not only successfully applied in the aviation industry by Shappell et al. (2007), but also in the railway (Reinach and Viale, 2006) and mining industry (Patterson and Shappell, 2010). For instance, the study of Rothblum et al. (2002) was the pioneer scientific research that aimed to investigate human factor in maritime accidents. "
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    • "The framework was further developed to also cover other causal factors than human factors, namely environmental factors like machinery failures and meteorological conditions (Wiegmann et al., 2005). The success of the method in detecting the contributing latent and active failures in the accident analysis made the method popular in the field of accident analysis that is vastly used in analysis of civil aviation accidents (Shappell et al., 2007) as well as the accidents in other domains like railroad (Reinach and Viale, 2006) and maritime (Chen and Chou, 2012; Chen et al., 2013). Reinach and Viale (2006) have further developed the method by adding the fifth level, namely ''external factors'', to the initial four levels in order to cover the latent failures that come from outside a particular domain. "
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