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Human Factors in Modern Security Systems


The diversification of threats aviation faces today results in the appearance of new and more effective ways to resist them and create a safe environment to protect all individuals involved in the work of the sphere. For this reason, there are multiple attempts to implement complex and multi-layered security systems that will determine and eliminate threats at their early stages. Protection against hazards is organised in several ways and presupposes effective screening, checks, monitoring, and consideration of all risk factors by utilising the newest technologies and tools.

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Although accepting the importance of innovations, human resources preserve their fundamental significance for civil aviation as security personnel remains responsible for all operations demanded to guarantee safety to passengers and the crew. Available technologies can improve the capabilities and opportunities of specialists, but cannot completely replace them or eliminate mistakes in their decisions. For this reason, human factors and errors are core elements of any security system that should be considered by airlines to create a safe environment and culture.


The significance of the discussed issue can also be evidenced by the fact that investigation of any accident presupposes the analysis of human factors and the possibility of a mistake made by specialists involved in the functioning of the sphere. Statistics show that the probability of error preconditioned by human factors ranges from 15 to 30%, which is unacceptably high for civil aviation because of multiple responsibilities (ICAO, 2016).

Moreover, there are numerous cases proving the essential role of wrong decisions made by security personnel and poor consequences stipulated by them (Arcurio, Nakamura and Armborst, 2018). About 70% of all aviation accidents can be related to the human factor (ICAO, 2016). International agencies such as International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) or International Air Transport Association (IATA) accept the critical role of human factor and the need for improving the situation by applying various techniques or guidelines that can be helpful in minimising the error rate and creating the safety culture needed to attain excellent outcomes (ICAO, 2016; IATA, 2018).

In such a way, the discussed problem preserves the top priority regardless of the shift towards innovative solutions, digitalised environments, and the extensive use of technologies. The majority of vital decisions are still made by the personnel, and there is a need to consider this factor to avoid undesired outcomes or critical harm.


The scope of the problem presupposes the existence of multiple perspectives on the human factor and its role in aviation. The broad one states that it is a set of social, psychological, and physiological characteristics of an individual or groups that can affect processes and their outcomes (Becker and Kohler, 2014). At the same time, ICAO offers a narrowed definition of the problem by considering it a multidisciplinary effort to generate and create knowledge about human capabilities and limitations related to the issue and apply this data to organise safe, comfortable, and effective human performance (FAA, 2014).

Additionally, speaking about this domain, ICAO (2016) indicates that the top five risks peculiar to civil aviation always include a human error or inappropriate decision-making. Under these conditions, the modern security systems are critically dependant on the work of personnel, their preparedness and motivation levels and the ability to cope with stress and responsibility. The complexity of these tasks and the tendency towards the diversification of threats introduce the need for additional training and research in the discussed field.

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Associated Risks

Due to the importance of the given element, today, a shift of focus on human factors can be observed. There are multiple efforts to analyse and control human error by introducing additional tools such as crew resource management (CRM) or line-oriented flight training (LOFT) (Muller and Drax, 2014). However, these approaches are designed to minimise the number of mistakes related to aircraft control and related services, while the work of security systems still remains vulnerable.

ICAO (2016) informs that human factors create the basis for the emergence of multiple risks in civil aviation such as failures in operations, pilots’ inability to make the right decision, lack of attention and the appearance of crucial loopholes in security systems. Among these problems, the risk of protection systems’ failure becomes vital regarding the growing terrorist threat and the need for sufficient measures to protect passengers from violent actions and avoid severe harm (IATA, 2018). For this reason, the idea of an effective security system is related to the enhanced work of the personnel and minimisation of errors made by workers.

Security Systems and Human Factors

The majority of modern airports are equipped with innovative security systems that are designed to resist all known types of threats. It presupposes screening, analysis of passengers, consideration of potential risk and anti-terrorism measures required to eliminate the opportunity of attack (CPNI, 2012). Their work is improved by using innovative approaches and technologies that provide a chance to detect a risky behaviour or potential threat and respond to it in the most effective way (Poole, 2009).

However, regardless of the extensive use of new means and methods, there are still some loopholes that can be used by malefactors, and the majority of them emerge due to the poor understanding of how to use these tools, low preparedness levels, tiredness, weak concentration, or other human factors (Poole, 2009). It means that the evolution of existing means should be followed by the constant improvement of human factors and elimination of their negative impact on civil aviation and security systems. People remain the main actors and their decisions impact outcomes and the work of the whole sphere.


Under these conditions, the appearance of multiple vulnerabilities and loopholes in security systems becomes the major problem associated with the discussed question. The sufficient work of modern protective means can be aligned only if there is a clear understanding of how they work and the correct decision-making, especially in emergent situations (FAA, 2014). For this reason, people involved in air traffic management (ATM) and functioning of security systems remain the ultimate solution providers and hold essential roles in the work of civil aviation (FAA, 2014).

Human factors can either improve the overall performance, reduce risks, and enhance interactions, or create the basis for the critical deterioration of the situation and appearance of the loopholes and vulnerabilities (ICAO, 2016). Among the most significant flaws, ICAO (2016) and IATA (2018) consider the increased chance of attacks, cyber threats and multiple errors the main risks that should be taken into account because of the negative consequences or substantial harm that can be done to aircraft and passengers. That is why the functioning of these agencies is focused on the improvement of these aspects.

For instance, correctly realising the negative impact of human factors on the work of security systems, in the majority of cases, malefactors try to use it. Statistics show that a substantial amount of terrorist attacks was successful because of the errors made by personnel or specialists’ inability to respond to a threat quickly and effectively (Seedhouse et al., 2019). In this regard, there is a direct correlation between human mistakes and the number of attacks or breaches of security systems.

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In other words, the lack of attention to human factors and the ineffective work with the personnel might precondition the appearance of loopholes and the increased risk of serious harm to people (Seedhouse et al., 2019). The given aspect significantly affects the performance and the effectiveness of mechanisms or tools, such as screeners (Seedhouse et al., 2019). ICAO (2016) also recognises this problem and offers multiple training courses and guidelines designed with the primary goal to minimise the number of mistakes resulting in the appearance loopholes used by attackers.

Another problem that should be discussed regarding the issue of the human factor is a cyberthreat. The given question is considered one of the major topics of modern civil aviation as the sophistication of security systems and digitalisation of the environment increase the chance of being attacked by using the Internet, various networks, or other technologies. The implementation of the next-generation systems also creates new vulnerabilities, especially if the personnel do not possess the needed preparedness level (Seedhouse et al., 2019).

Under these conditions, cyberattacks become a significant concern for security specialists as the protective measures should be effective enough to determine and respond to them. Human errors might create the basis for the failure of the software and collapse of the whole system because of its digitalisation and innovative character. That is why ICAO and IATA, as leading agencies responsible for the creation of the safe environment, foster the idea of additional training of the personnel to be ready to determine cyber threats and respond effectively.

At the same time, the majority of vulnerabilities mentioned above arise because of human errors. It means that the human factor remains one of the critical sources of issues that might deteriorate the work of airlines and create the basis for undesired outcomes. Numerous dramatic accidents caused by mistakes in aviation and other spheres evidence the critical significance of this element. For the modern security systems employed by airlines, the given component also remains fundamental. Their design presupposes the combination of the most innovative solutions and technologies with the sufficient work of security specialists (Sweet, 2008).

However, as against devices that are characterised by the increased reliability, workers can misunderstand information or treat it in various ways (Sweet, 2008). This can precondition the appearance of undesired outcomes or critical flaws that will destroy the whole system. For this reason, ICAO (2016) develops methodologies for gathering data about errors and their causes, performs analysis and makes recommendations on how to improve various procedures and achieve desired outcomes. Human factor analysis serves as the basis for the integration of new technologies and methods to reduce errors’ rate and frequency.

Another significant problem associated with the human factor is the insider threat. It can be determined as the presence of an individual or a group possessing or having access to insider knowledge that can be utilised to discover and exploit all vulnerabilities of the security system and damage it (ICAO, 2016). The given aspect is directly correlated with the human factor as employees responsible for the creation of the safe environment might intentionally or accidentally provide malefactors with the knowledge needed to avoid security systems and cause substantial harm to passengers or aircraft.

This question also becomes one of the important concerns for ICAO, because the data available to security officers and its leaks can be hazardous if used by third parties (Sweet, 2008). Under these conditions, various forms of insider threat should also be related to human factors and given attention with the primary goal to protect the existing environment. The use of this vital information by terrorists in planning their attacks can precondition multiple devastations and deaths. For this reason, the modern security systems presuppose the existence of protection against the insider threat.

ICAO’s Position and Recommendations

Considering all the information provided above, the significance of human factors and their role in modern security systems cannot be denied. Personnel and officers remain the main actors responsible for correct decisions. In this regard, ICAO (2016) constantly looks for new solutions and methods that might help to improve the situation in this domain and guarantee safety to passengers. There are several ways in which this task can be accomplished, and the agency considers them. It collects information about the leading causes of human errors and factors that preconditioned their appearance with the primary goal to avoid them in the future (FAA, 2014).

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At the same time, the cultivation of security culture also remains one of the goals that should be achieved to ensure that the number of errors will be reduced and the existing security system will benefit from the improved cooperation between specialists. Moreover, it will reduce the amount of attacks due to the correct understanding of their nature and how to respond to the majority of them.

Due to the critical importance of the given theme and multiple effects associated with the human factor, ICAO provides a list of recommendations and guidelines on how to improve its state. For instance, there is a correlation between the motivation and number of errors; in other words, a highly motivated specialist makes fewer mistakes and minimises the negative impact of human factor on the security system. For this reason, it is vital to work with this component (Seedhouse et al.,2019).

Moreover, ICAO introduces special training programs for personnel to enhance their skills and competences, which is critical for decision-making in emergencies. Assessment of existing negative factors and their elimination to create a positive environment and cultivate safety culture are other recommendations offered by ICAO regarding the discussed aspect.

In accordance with the multiple research projects, motivation remains one of the most effective ways to solve the majority of problems associated with the human factor and align the effective work of employees. There are multiple factors that might affect security personnel, such as pressure, stress, responsibility and low salaries (Seedhouse et al.,2019). All these aspects can have a strong influence on a worker and either increase or decrease his/her performance levels.

For this reason, there is a critical need for the creation of a positive working environment that will support the work of a security system and guarantee that the staff will not suffer from burn-out or other negative factors. Under these conditions, cultivation of positive motivation becomes an integral element of modern security systems as it will help to mitigate the negative impact of the human factor on airlines.

Analysing the human factor, training holds the top priority as one of the methods to improve outcomes, minimise the number of errors made by the staff, and create a safe environment. Using data from regular assessments and checks, ICAO (2016) offers its guidelines on how to improve personnel’s understanding of the work of modern security systems and ensure that they will be able to cope with the high responsibility and pressure. Specially designed courses are recommended for all airlines to enhance their systems, eliminate loopholes and establish the safety culture, which is fundamental regarding the modern demands to the protection of passengers and all individuals engaged in the work of civil aviation.

However, agencies emphasise the fact that good training can be aligned only if there is a practical and working assessment model. It should serve as the central source of information about the impact of human factors on the work of security systems, current problems and issues affecting employees, and their ability to work in the existing environment (ICAO, 2016). Under these conditions, airlines should be ready to devote significant resources to monitoring practices and analysis of acquired data as it will help to increase awareness and implement appropriate measures to mitigate the influence of human factors and avoid fatal errors leading to the appearance of vulnerabilities in the future.

Today, there is also a focus on the creation of a security culture. It can be determined as a set of values common to every member of an organisation and determining their approach to security (Sweet, 2008). It guarantees the alignment of an effective personnel security regime, appearance and development of sufficient responses to threats, and absence of critical mistakes leading to substantial harm done to people or airlines. The creation of a security culture is one of the pivotal tasks of managers responsible for these concerns as it becomes an integral element of the modern aviation sphere.

Regarding the information provided above, human factors remain a significant issue impacting the effectiveness of all modern security systems and outcomes. Despite the digitalisation of the environment and the massive use of technologies, employees remain the primary decision-makers, and their influence on protective measures cannot be denied. For this reason, there are numerous concerns associated with a high number of human errors and the creation of measures to avoid them in the future. ICAO (2016) also accepts the critical importance of this factor and offers recommendations on how to train the staff to ensure their ability to meet the current requirements.


Altogether, human factors constitute a significant problem in the modern civil aviation sphere. Accepting the fact that individuals’ lives depend on provided measures, the probability of error should be minimised to achieve beneficial outcomes. There are multiple ways in which security personnel can be trained and prepare to work in the given field. Modern agencies such as ICAO and IATA continue to collect information related to the human factor with the prior goal to remain informed about the state of the problem and be able to provide appropriate interventions to achieve the desired results.

Reference List

Arcurio, M., Nakamura, E. and Armborst, T. (2018) ‘Human factors and errors in security aviation: an ergonomic perspective’, Journal of Advanced Transportation. Web.

Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI) (2012) Security in design of stations (SIDOS) guide. Web.

Becker, S. and Kohler, E. (2014) ‘Importance of fatigue risk management’, in Muller, R., Wittmer, A. and Drax, C. (eds.) Aviation risk and safety management: methods and applications in aviation organizations. New York: Springer, pp. 115-138.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) (2014) Human factors research and applications. Web.

IATA (2018) Safety report. Web.

ICAO (2016) Safety report. Web.

Muller, R. and Drax, C. (2014) ‘Fundamentals and structure of safety management systems in aviation’, in Muller, R., Wittmer, A. and Drax, C. (eds.) Aviation risk and safety management: methods and applications in aviation organizations. New York: Springer, pp. 45-57.

Poole, R. (2009) ‘The case for risk-based aviation security policy’, World Customs Journal, 3(2), pp. 3-16.

Seedhouse, E. et al. (2019) Human factors in air transport: understanding behavior and performance in aviation. New York: Springer.

Sweet, K. (2008) Aviation and airport security: terrorism and safety concerns. London: CRC Press.

Transportation Security Administration (TSA) (2011) Recommended security guidelines for airport planning, design, and construction. Web.

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