Thinking of applying for our Human Factors vacancies? – We sat down with the HF team to ask about their work.
- March 23, 2021
We recently spoke to a number of professionals within our Human Factors profession about their work and how it plays a part in delivering our mission at Sellafield Ltd.
How would you summarise the role of a Human Factors Specialist at Sellafield?
You will play a key role in the implementation of human factors safety and design across multiple plants and projects at all levels of the HFI process at our main site at Sellafield Ltd.
You will be responsible for HF assessments in support of safety cases across multiple projects and plants, COMAH related areas and Investigations. We work from initial concept design, through to decommissioning and plant demolition and everything in between.
You will to work closely with stakeholders including Safety Case Teams, Designers, Engineers, Operators, Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR), National Nuclear Laboratories (NNL), as well as HF Specialists from several different consultancies.
Why join the HF team at Sellafield?
This role will enable you to enhance your existing HF skills in a high-risk industry, gaining insight and understanding of complex engineering, chemical and nuclear challenges. It will provide you with the opportunity to influence the design of complex systems and equipment to demonstrate that these are safe and effective for the end users and the public.
What was your career pathway to your current role?
One of our Senior Consultants said:
“I am a senior Human Factors consultant who has worked in the high hazard sectors for over 20 years. After completing my Masters in ‘Applied Ergonomics’, I started my career in Human Factors consultancy. In the early years, I mainly worked on rail, defence, manufacturing, and oil & gas projects. I found the work both challenging and rewarding, and in particular I enjoyed working in different environments and interacting with people from varied backgrounds.
As my career developed, I found myself being drawn to the Civil Nuclear Sector and for the past 10 years I have almost exclusively supported nuclear decommissioning / remediation projects. I think it is the variety of work and the technical safety challenges that keeps me interested. In my experience, working at Nuclear Licensees, such as Sellafield Ltd., allows me to make a real impact on large scale nuclear decommissioning projects to ensure adequate consideration is given to the human when designing new tasks, equipment, procedures and working environments. I particularly enjoy working as part of multi-disciplinary teams, to influence design concepts at an early stage of development and to demonstrate safety significant tasks can be effectively, efficiently, and safely completed.
If you haven’t worked in the Nuclear sector before I would highly recommend you give it a try; the HF methods and techniques used in other industries will be largely cross transferrable and there is always something new to keep you interested and engaged.”
The current staff team all joined as trainees. We all hold a BSc and/or MSc in Psychology or Ergonomics. We have vastly different work experience or careers before we joined the Human Factors Team at SL. Our previous roles included supporting students with special education needs, teaching modern foreign languages, contract management, research in the NHS and working in rail. However, our differing degrees, work and life experience provide us with a broad range of knowledge and expertise in different fields and contribute to a diverse and insightful team.
Joining a new business and industry can be quite daunting, how did you find your first your first twelve months and what training did you receive?
“I joined the HF team during lockdown, I was welcomed by the team and have felt supported throughout and can hands down say this is the best team I have worked in. I am looking forward to moving to a blended approach to working spending some time working from home, visiting site and working from the office. It will be great to meet people face to face for a change.”
Every company has their own policies, standards and guidance. SL has been in the forefront of developing HF standards and guidance in the Nuclear sector and strives for continuous improvement.
What do you enjoy most about the Human Factors role?
No two days are the same. We get to work on projects that differ in scope, this could mean I am involved with a HF assessment of a project to replace some of our legacy equipment or having input into the design of a new facility or assessing whether autonomous systems or robotic technology should be used on a project. We deal with complex engineering, chemical and radiation issues.
We also get to visit lots of different facilities and work with lots of different people, from across the site and across teams at all levels of the organisation. We also work with and peer review the work of other HF consultants from a variety of companies, ONR and NNL.
What is the biggest challenge you face?
We collaborate with other stakeholders and there can be delays in receiving information, or concessions to make. We need to be adaptable to different work demands and good at reviewing and prioritising work. The scope of a project may grow as a project develops or as we identify additional tasks or equipment that need HF assessment.
Good listening skills are key in understanding issues from all sides, taking on board other areas of expertise and considering the wider ALARP context. You will also need to strong influencing and negotiating skills to ensure task design or operational approach is achievable and safe for end users.
How many are in Human Factors team at Sellafield?
Our workforce is growing and is currently a mix of contractors and core SL HF team of 20 people. For larger projects you will work within a HF sub-team so you get to work with a variety of colleagues.
What do you enjoy most about the Human Factors role?
Every day is different, you could be on plant with operational teams understanding their tasks or reviewing the design of new cutting-edge equipment. Another day you could be considering the replacement of existing equipment or components or you might be supporting an investigation. As you might expect there is some chemistry and physics to consider too, so every assessment and plant has different challenges and you learn something new every day. At the end of the day you know that you have made a difference to the comfort and safety of end users and helped towards Sellafield’s decommissioning mission!
What is the vision for the HF team?
Maintaining a strong HF team is strategically important to the Sellafield mission and our contribution to this is recognised at the most senior levels within the organisation. Our current priority is to grow the team and develop team members skills and experience.
Our vision for the future is developing greater human factors capacity and integration across the organisation. Raising greater awareness, knowledge and influence of Human Factors within other related safety disciplines.
If you join Sellafield Ltd as a Team Leader or a Senior Assessor, you would have the opportunity to lead and shape the implementation this vision to ensure that Sellafield Ltd leads the way in Human Factors Integration.
What makes the role of a HF Specialist at Sellafield different to similar roles in the external market?
The scope and complexity of work varies on each project and is unmatched anywhere else in the nuclear industry. HF is involved throughout the design lifecycle, rather than just providing a review function at the end. We get involved in a diverse range of activities supporting different areas of site. It’s very difficult to get bored as there is always something new to learn.
As far as job security is concerned, HF is a growing team and there will be a reliance on the operator at SL for at least the next 100 years, until Sellafield has completed its mission. Working for Sellafield isn’t just a career, you will be part of a team of nuclear professionals, dedicated to maintaining safety on site and creating a secure and environmentally sound space for today, tomorrow and for future generations.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking of applying?
If you have a minimum of a BSc in Psychology or Human Factors, have over five years of experience working in HF in high hazard industries, nuclear, military, rail or medial sectors and are interested in human behaviour, open, willing to learn and like a challenge, this is an incredible opportunity. What are you waiting for?