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The “Big Picture”: Human, Machine and Environment


Understanding the “Big Picture” instead of taking a “narrow view” during an inspection is critical to success. The entire human – machine interface is critical to most cases, therefore, CED engineers conduct comprehensive and thorough investigations looking at the total picture by examining interactions between the human, machine, and environment.  

For example, when inspecting a large piece of machinery, an engineer cannot focus on just the machine. If an expert limits their investigation to looking at only the piece of machinery and overlooks other aspects of the case such as eye witness reports, machine manuals, or the environment, it could be the difference between winning and losing your case.

If the engineer looks at only the human and the machine but neglects to look at the environment, they might miss the fact that due to lighting conditions or sound levels, the operator was not aware the machine was still operating when they reached in to remove a workpiece. Or if the investigator neglects to review the witness statements and only looks at the machine and environment, they might miss the fact the operator removed the machine safety guard prior to the accident. These overlooked facts could lead your expert to reach an incorrect conclusion and damage your case.

Therefore, to make sure nothing is overlooked, some questions and answers the investigator should ask and/or evaluate when performing an inspection would be: 

Was this their usual job?
Were they trained on this particular machine?
Was safety gear required?
Were they wearing the safety gear?
Could the accident have happened the way the injured party claimed?
What did the eye witnesses say happened?
What human factor aspects apply?
Environment (during and after the accident)
Time of Day the accident happened?
Lighting conditions?  (inspect the machine during the same time of day or night the accident occurred.)
What was the noise level?
Conditions around the machine?
Distractions near the machine?
Machine (during and after the accident)
Inspect the actual machine or piece of equipment (only if it is not available, look at an exemplar)
Condition of the machine during the accident?
Regular maintenance of the machine—do they have a log?
How the machine was working before, during and after the accident?
Make sure the machine is set up with the same components as during the accident.
Review the machine manual for instructions and warnings.
Performing human, machine and environment inspections allows an engineer to gather all the available facts. These facts can then be used to write a supporting report or provide information required to “Settle” a case.

CED engineers use the “Big Picture” view when investigating accidents. Give us a call at 800.466.1090 to discuss how we can help you.

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