Reactor safety and risk are dominated by the potential and major contribution for human error in the design, operation, control, management, regulation and maintenance of the plant, and hence to all accidents. Given the possibility of accidents and errors, now we need to determine the outcome (error) probability, or the chance of failure. Conventionally, reliability engineering is associated with the failure rate of components, or systems, or mechanisms, not of human beings in and interacting with a technological system. The probability of failure requires a prior knowledge of the total number of outcomes, which for any predictive purposes we do not know or have. Analysis of failure rates due to human error and the rate of learning allow a new determination of the dynamic human error rate in technological systems, consistent with and derived from the available world data. The basis for the analysis is the “learning hypothesis” that humans learn from experience, and consequently the accumulated experience defines the failure rate. A new “best” equation has been derived for the human error, outcome or failure rate, which allows for calculation and prediction of the probability of human error. We also provide comparisons to the empirical Weibull parameter fitting used in and by conventional reliability engineering and probabilistic safety analysis methods. These new analyses show that arbitrary Weibull fitting parameters and typical empirical hazard function techniques cannot be used to predict the dynamics of human errors and outcomes in the presence of learning. Comparisons of these new insights show agreement with human error data from the world’s commercial airlines, the two shuttle failures, and from nuclear plant operator actions and transient control behavior observed in transients in both plants and simulators. The results demonstrate that the human error probability (HEP) is dynamic, and that it may be predicted using the learning hypothesis and the minimum failure rate, and can be utilized for probabilistic risk analysis purposes.

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