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The human factor.


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Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)
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About this work


This film is about how accidents in the workplace might occur. In the form of a semi-dramatic reconstruction, narrated by Maurice Denham, we see how a factory worker, Stan Berry, becomes the victim of a serious accident while at work. We arrive at the scene of the accident, an industrial work place with stacks of oil drums at the same time as the ambulance. The following sequences explore how the accident happened and who is to blame. The conclusion is that it is the human factor; the unpredicatability of human behaviour which is the issue.


England : ICI Film Unit, 1959.

Physical description

1 encoded moving image (16 min.) : sound, color



Copyright note

ICI 1959

Terms of use

Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 UK: England & Wales

Language note

In English.

Creator/production credits

Script and Production; Gordon Begg, Direction; Pat Morton, Photography; Ken Rodwell, ARPS, Peter Grimwood, Editing; Joe Leslie, Music; Adrian Cruft, Narration; Maurice Denham.


Segment 1 The opening sequence shows men and women converging en masse to work outside a factory. Pan up to the sky with opening credits; ICI presents 'The Human Factor'. Over doom-laden music, the camera pans down to a wide-shot of a generic factory and a white ambulance with commentary that 'someone has had an accident'. In an office, there is a dramatisation of a meeting between the works manager, the safety officer and the foreman, the man on the spot when the accident happened. The works manager receives a telephone call which establishes that the man is seriously injured and is going to hospital. Out in the works, the foreman speaks to the injured man's concerned colleagues. In the accident ward of the medical department, still onsite at the factory, the injured man is seen. The narrator questions whether the man is in some way to blame for the accident? Is he accident prone? In the patient's bleary state, voices from his past remind him to be careful. A superimposed clock winds back time to when he was a child using scissors and his mother is seen in close-up telling him to be careful. His legs and feet at different ages are shown walking through mist to suggest the passing of time. There is a montage of key stages in his life when different people exhorted him to be careful. A policeman tells him to take care crossing the road. Then his mother tells him off for climbing a tree. A man tells him to be careful using a carpentry plane. He is then seen diving from a high board at the swimming pool. Next he is learning to ride a motorbike. During his military service, he is learning to use a rifle. Finally he receives a briefing at the works about using safety equipment. He returns to semi-consciousness and the narrator asks us to step back to earlier in the day. Time start: 00:00:00:00 Time end: 00:06:31:15 Length: 00:06:31:15
We revisit Stan at the beginning of his day; his wife gives him some unforeseen chores just as he is leaving for work. He fetches coal and fixes a wheel to a pram. He then has to rush for his bus which he sees arriving and then leaving without him. He narrowly misses being run over by a car. He arrives late to work which is at the factory in a bay where drums of oil are stored. There is a lot of moving around by forklift trucks, lorries and trains. It is also very noisy. The foreman checks up on Stan. Stan leaves his coat on the top of the pile of drums and when he climbs up to retrieve it, the accident happens when all the drums collapse from underneath him. His colleagues rescue him and the narrator questions 'why the accident happened?' Time start: 00:06:31:15 Time end: 00:10:50:22 Length: 00:04:19:07
Segment 3 In an office, the accident investigation is dramatised. The works manager, the safety officer, the foreman and a works councellor investigate how the accident occurred. They question the lorry driver and the forklift truck driver who have both made procedural mistakes. Subsequently, changes are made to the works practices to improve safety (these are shown being implemented), although the narrator states that accidents happen due to the unpredicatability of human behaviour. Stan, our patient at the beginning, is then shown fit and well at home doing DIY. There is a wide-shot of a crowd watching a football match, this then cuts to a scene of mass graves to illustrate the loss of life in industry. ICI Time start: 00:10:50:22 Time end: 00:16:24:00 Length: 00:05:33:03


  • English

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