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HSI Topic: Training

Training is another HSI domain that intersects with Human Factors Engineering and Safety.

Training is any activity that results in enabling users, operators, maintainers, leaders and support personnel, to acquire, gain or enhance knowledge, skills, and concurrently develops their cognitive, physical, sensory, team dynamics and adaptive abilities to conduct joint operations and achieve maximized and fiscally sustainable system life cycles. The training of people as a component of material solutions, delivers the intended capability to improve or fill capability gaps. (Defense Acquisition University, 2016, 6.3.3)

Training can help to mitigate problems that are associated with limited attentional resources. Effective training equips the rail workforce with the knowledge, skills, and abilities for efficient, effective, and safe operations. Effective training also uses strategies and tools (such as computer-based and interactive training, simulation, on-the-job training) that are useful for different types of content and account for different learning styles.

Training related to issues of attention and distraction should include educating rail operators on operator attention abilities and limitations, including topics such as the challenges of keeping  sustained attention (vigilance), the consequences of divided attention, and what can happen when an operator’s attention is diverted from the task at hand (distractions). 

Training might also include education on the different types of distraction. For example, anxiety or worry about work or personal factors can be a significant source of distraction for rail personnel, affecting performance by redirecting attention away from the primary task (Matthews et al., 2002; Wine, 1971). Railroad management might consider providing rail operators with training to develop effective coping strategies and stress management skills that can help reduce the distractions related to stress and anxiety. 

Finally, training related to attention and distraction can provide operators with guidance on techniques to manage attention. Rail company training already encourages operators to develop their own methods to track tasks such as rule changes, temporary work orders, and re-routings using the job brief checklist. Operators will either mark up the checklist, or develop their own reminders on a separate piece of paper. Additional training that includes strategies operators might consider or adapt for their own use could be a valuable means of mitigating problems associated with distraction. Some of these may be individual strategies, but many rely on teamwork.


  • Defense Acquisition Guidebook (2016). Environment, Safety and Occupational Health (ESOH) Overview.
  • Matthews, G., Campbell, S. E., Falconer, S., Joyner, L., Huggins, J., Gilliland, K., Grier, R. & Warm, J. (2002).  Fundamental dimensions of subjective state in performance settings:  Task engagement, distress and worry. Emotion, 2, 315-340. 
  • Wine, J. (1971).  Test anxiety and direction of attention. Psychological Bulletin, 76, 92-104.