Identification of the Human Factors Contributing to Maintenance Failures in a Petroleum Operation

Ari Antonovsky, Clare Pollock, Leon Straker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: This research aimed to identify the most
frequently occurring human factors contributing to
maintenance-related failures within a petroleum industry
organization. Commonality between failures will assist
in understanding reliability in maintenance processes,
thereby preventing accidents in high-hazard domains.
Background: Methods exist for understanding
the human factors contributing to accidents. Their
application in a maintenance context mainly has been
advanced in aviation and nuclear power. Maintenance
in the petroleum industry provides a different context
for investigating the role that human factors play
in influencing outcomes. It is therefore worth investigating
the contributing human factors to improve our
understanding of both human factors in reliability and
the factors specific to this domain.
Method: Detailed analyses were conducted of maintenance-
related failures (N = 38) in a petroleum company
using structured interviews with maintenance technicians.
The interview structure was based on the Human Factor
Investigation Tool (HFIT), which in turn was based on Rasmussen’s
model of human malfunction.
Results: A mean of 9.5 factors per incident was identified
across the cases investigated. The three most frequent
human factors contributing to the maintenance failures
were found to be assumption (79% of cases), design and
maintenance (71%), and communication (66%).
Conclusion: HFIT proved to be a useful instrument
for identifying the pattern of human factors that recurred
most frequently in maintenance-related failures.
Application: The high frequency of failures attributed
to assumptions and communication demonstrated
the importance of problem-solving abilities and organizational
communication in a domain where maintenance
personnel have a high degree of autonomy and a
wide geographical distribution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)306-321
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number2
Early online date11 Jun 2013
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014
Externally publishedYes


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