Human factors Investigation Tool (HFIT)

Designed for use in the offshore oil industry.

Dr Rachael Gordon, Dr Kathryn Mearns, Prof Rhona Flin, School of Psychology.

Email: r.flin@abdn.ac.uk

The development of this tool was funded by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and 5 oil service and operating companies (2005) for use in the offshore environment.  More recently the tool has been adapted for the healthcare environment and has been applied to a human factors analysis of difficult airway management cases in anaesthesia (see publications).


The collection and analysis of accurate accident data is essential for improving workplace safety.  However, despite its importance, at the time of this tools development many accident reporting systems were still vulnerable to under-reporting or did not provide a complete picture of accident conditions.  These failings may be due to the lack of a strong theoretical framework for psychological factors in many accident reporting tools.  Thus, although information produced from these accident reporting forms could be extensive, the quality and quantity of data concerning human factors causes of accidents was generally poor.  The aim of developing HFIT was to provide an incident analysis tool based on a robust psychological framework with the potential to improve the quality of human factors incident data.

A review of the theories of accident causation and an analysis of 18 incident reporting systems provided the basis for HFIT (see Gordon, Flin & Mearns, 2005). Causal codes identified from a review of the human factors common to safety climate surveys and accident analysis studies were used to check that relevant codes were included within the investigation tool.



Figure 1: HFIT model of incident causation and direction of analysis (Gordon et al, 2005).

The model depicted in Figure 1 illustrates the four categories which produce HFIT; threats, situation awareness, action error and error recovery.  Within the tool these four categories contain 28 elements.  These elements were the basis of a paper and computer based flowchart which can be used to investigate accidents through HFIT.  The tool can be used during interviews with staff immediately after an accident has occurred, or retrospectively on incidents that have been previously investigated using other tools.

Publications featuring HFIT

Flin, R., Fioratou, E., Frerk, C., Trotter, C. & Cook, T. (2013). Human factors in the development of complications of airway management: preliminary evaluation of an interview tool. Anaesthesia, 68, 817-825.

Gordon, R., Flin, R. & Mearns, K. (2005). Designing and evaluating a human factors investigation tool (HFIT) for accident analysis. Safety Science, 43, 147-171.


Gordon, R., Mearns, K. & Flin, R. (2002). The development and evaluation of a human factors investigation tool (HFIT) for the offshore oil industry. In: A Joint HSE/Oil Industry Sponsored Project (HSE Report Reference D3933). HSE Books, London.

Gordon, R., Mearns, K. & Flin, R. (2000). The development and evaluation of a human factors accident and near miss reporting form for the offshore oil industry. In: Mearns, K. (Ed.), Factoring the Human into Safety: Translating Research into Practice, vol. II. HSE Books, London.

Email: r.flin@abdn.ac.uk