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Gain a thorough understanding of the factors that can influence human performance and safety in the workplace.


Safety is a priority in every industry. This course considers safety from a human factors perspective, and is suitable for anyone who wants to learn more about the factors that can influence human performance and safety.

The course will provide insight into human behaviour at work, from how we work together and make decisions (non-technical skills) to the impact of the workplace environment (heat, noise) on our ability to work safely and effectively.

By covering the most up to date research in this area, alongside evaluating real life case studies to discover what went wrong, this course will equip professionals from every industry with the tools they need to begin evaluating, and improving, safety at their own place of work.

Why Aberdeen for this course?

The origins of Psychology at the University of Aberdeen reach as far back as 1896, the year in which the Anderson Lectureship in Comparative Psychology was founded. The School has developed since then to become a vibrant, research-led environment with a variety of specialist groups, including the Applied Psychology and Human Factors group.

The School has a long history of Industrial and Human Factors research. Currently led by Dr Amy Irwin, this research is predominantly focused on improving safety across a range of industries including aviation, transport, nuclear power, offshore drilling, farming and healthcare. Many of these projects have involved collaboration with major industry and government contacts.

The course is supported by years of relevant research, the industrial knowledge and contacts of the main teaching staff.

What you'll study

This course considers the factors that can enhance and limit human performance at work, with a particular focus on safety. An integral aspect of the course will be the evaluation of real life case studies (such as Deepwater Horizon, Apollo 13 and the Tenerife aircraft disaster) to learn more about what can go wrong, and how workers on the frontline can mitigate or reduce the likelihood of an accident or injury. Looking ahead, the course will also discuss the development of interventions designed to increase safety and performance at work.

By bringing together professionals from industry this course will also encourage you to reflect on best practice in your industry and to discuss that best practice with like-minded individuals. By the end of the course you will be armed with new knowledge to take back, and apply, to your own industrial sector!

Topics in detail:

  1. Assess and discuss large scale disasters from a Human Factors perspective.
  2. Learn more about how the human element can be a positive influence.
  3. Find out about Human Factors methods, both qualitative and quantitative (from interviews to questionnaires).
  4. Discuss non-technical skills (teamwork, leadership, decision-making, situation awareness) and how these skills can enhance safety performance.
  5. Find out more about the four main aspects of the workplace environment (heat, light, noise and vibration).
  6. Learn about workplace design from a psychological perspective.
  7. Assess the impact of stress and fatigue on safety and performance.
  8. Discuss risk assessment and management strategies.

How you'll study

This online, distance learning, course offers you the flexibility to learn at your own pace, allowing you to fit study around your existing commitments. The course is offered via the virtual learning environment (VLE) as a self-contained unit of study. Materials are taught by Human Factors experts from academia and industry, and have been developed specifically for online delivery.

Join in online discussion groups to share best practice across a range of industries. Discuss case studies and engage in problem-solving with your online colleagues, with support from your tutor. Engage in individual learning and group activities, with flexibility inherent in every stage to allow you to manage your own time.

Contact your tutor via email, telephone or skype and use discussion boards to chat to fellow learners for conversation and support.


The course will be assessed through three methods:

  • You will be asked to conduct an assessment of a real life case study, identifying the major failings and suggesting interventions.
  • You will asked to contribute to regular discussion boards.
  • You will also complete a multiple choice exam, which will be set and accessed online. The exam will test your knowledge on each of the main topics covered by the course.

Entry Requirements

Students should have one, or both, of the following:

  • An academic qualification at undergraduate degree or diploma level.
  • Relevant work experience in industry.

All students entering the University, including online courses, must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study our programmes effectively. Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. For details of our pre-sessional English courses see our Language Centre website.