We had learned a long time ago that training in the H&S field was insufficient as, otherwise, the number of hours laid down by law would have been more successful in reducing accidents and injuries. As we know all too well there has not been a drastic reduction in the number of workplace accidents. So where did we go wrong? The analysis is not so simple. The H&S training process is still seen by businesses and workers as being obligatory, more a boring administrative procedure to be done than an actual resource. The judiciary does not give any relevant indications: while, on the one hand, it favours the fulfilment of the legal obligations, on the other, it makes training a mere bureaucratic procedure. In reality, a correct analysis of the training requirement should entail assessing the individuals and the capabilities that they possess.
Since the seventies, research has revealed the importance of the human factor in making decisions under hazardous conditions. The human factor shows how the single element can make the difference within the group, both in making decisions when faced with a risk, and when it’s a question of preventing an accident. Highlighting the value of each individual, his or her personal attitudes and those that are classified as non-technical skills, that is, all the cross-departmental capabilities not directly correlated with technical knowledge, is fundamentally important for effective prevention and training. An interesting definition of human factor is that formulated by the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization): “Human factors study people in performing their tasks, their entry into the work environment understood both physically and interpersonally, their relationship with work tools and the procedures to be followed. The aim of this research is to purse safety and efficiency” (ICAO circular letter 227). The meaning given to the human factor is fundamentally important; alone it should be enough to conceive training as personalized, closely related to the Human-Machine Interface (HMI) and the study of man-machine interface problems, with all the pitfalls that lie in the relationship with the environment discussed in the book, now dated but still interesting, “The coffee pot for masochists: the psychopathology of everyday things” by Donald Norman. Workplace ergonomics should be another important element. All three approaches (human factor, workplace ergonomics and HMI) play a decisive role in accident prevention only if considered together with others. Much has been done for the HMI, quite a lot for ergonomics but hardly anything for the human factor. To be honest, when classrooms are filled with students for a safety training course, this is the last thing that comes to mind. The legislator should understand the true value of the human factor in preventing accidents, by converting it from a free obligation into a pure obligation. If no action is taken by the institutions, people are unlikely to become more sensitive to this issue.