What employees do today because of their experience yesterday: How incidental learning influences train driver behavior and safety margins (a big data analysis)

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Abstract

Employee behavior plays an important role in the occurrence and prevention of incidents, affecting safety margins. In this study, we examine the potential impact of incidental learning on human behavior in the presence of variation in task design. Incidental learning is the day-to-day on-the-job learning that occurs unintentionally. This learning influences which behavior (schema) is more likely to be activated in the employee’s brain. We posit that an incorrect schema can be activated and lead to undesired behavior if the employee is often exposed to (visually) similar tasks that require different behavior. In rail transport, there is a risk of trains passing through red signals. The train driver’s behavior plays an important role in preventing these signal passed at danger (SPAD) incidents. In this study we used speed and location data to analyze train driver deceleration behavior during red signal approaches in the Netherlands. The Dutch rail system showed variation in yellow signal aspects and signal distance. An analysis using 19 months of empirical data indicated changes in behavior when the employee had been previously exposed to different behavior requirements in the same location with a similar yellow signal. These results imply that task design can be improved by taking into consideration what an employee is exposed to during other moments of the shift, and not just during the execution of the specific task.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Number of pages22
JournalSafety
Volume7
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Human behavior
  • Human error
  • Implicit learning
  • Incidental learning
  • Rail
  • Schema
  • SPAD
  • Task design
  • Train driver

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