People as a priority in safety design

In the ever-changing landscape of safety technology, the concept of human-centred design has become a guiding principle to create solutions that prioritise user needs, preferences and experience. Human-centred security design goes beyond functionality to consider the human factors that influence the effectiveness and usability of security systems. In this article, we will look at what human-centred security design entails and why it is relevant in today's security environment.

What is meant by "safety design" or "safety engineering"?

Safety design is the deliberate planning, development and implementation of measures to reduce risks, prevent accidents and protect people from harm in different environments, products or systems. It involves considering potential hazards, analysing potential risks and implementing strategies to mitigate them, with the ultimate aim of ensuring the safety and well-being of users or occupants. Safety design covers a wide range of disciplines, including architecture, engineering, industrial design, product development and occupational safety, and involves integrating safety considerations into all stages of the design process, from conceptualisation to implementation. Safety design aims to create environments, products and systems that are inherently safe, user-friendly and contribute to reducing the likelihood of accidents or injuries.

Understanding human-centred safety design

Understanding human-centred security design means prioritising the needs of individuals in the design of security measures and protocols by focusing on their behaviour, capabilities, preferences and interactions with security technologies. This process involves an in-depth understanding of end-users' needs, motivations and concerns, using methods such as user research, ethnographic studies and usability testing. By intervening with users and involving them in the development process, security solutions can be tailored to meet their specific needs and requirements.

Here are some real-life examples:

  • Ergonomic workplace design: many companies are investing in ergonomic furniture and equipment to ensure the comfort and well-being of their employees. Adjustable desks, supportive chairs and adequate lighting are all examples of human-centred safety design features that reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries and boost productivity.
  • Accessible building design: Architects and engineers incorporate features such as ramps, handrails and wide doorways to make buildings accessible to people with disabilities. Taking into account the needs of people with reduced mobility, person-centred safety design ensures that everyone can move safely and independently around the premises.
  • User-friendly safety equipment: Safety equipment such as fire extinguishers and emergency exits should be easy to find and use in an emergency. Clear signage, intuitive controls and regular training promote human-centered safety design, enabling people to respond effectively in potentially life-threatening situations.
  • Health and wellness programmes: employers implement health and wellness programmes to promote the physical and mental well-being of employees. These initiatives can include stress management workshops, fitness challenges, team-building activities and access to counselling services, demonstrating a commitment to human-centred safety design that addresses the holistic needs of employees.
  • Safety culture and communication: Promoting a safety culture within the internal culture of organizations worldwide is becoming increasingly popular, encouraging open communication and collaboration between employees. Safety meetings, hazard reporting systems and regular safety inspections are examples of people-centered safety design practices that prioritize people's input and involvement in identifying and mitigating risks.

Basic principles of human-centred safety design

  • User-centred: Human-centred security design starts with a thorough understanding of end-users' needs, goals and pain points. By involving users in the design process from the outset, security solutions can be tailored to meet their unique requirements and preferences.
  • Usability and accessibility: Security technologies should be intuitive, easy to use and accessible to users of all abilities. Designing for usability and accessibility ensures that security systems are effective and inclusive, minimising the risk of error or misunderstanding.
  • Human-centred security design aims to empower users by giving them the information, control and autonomy they need to make informed decisions and take appropriate actions. Building trust between users and security systems is essential to promote cooperation and compliance.
  • Adaptability and flexibility: security threats and user needs are constantly changing, so security solutions need to be adaptable and flexible. Human-centred design allows for interactive development and continuous improvement based on user feedback and changing requirements.

The benefits of human-centered safety design

  • Improved user experience: by prioritising user needs and preferences, human-centred security design creates solutions that are more intuitive, engaging and user-friendly, thereby increasing user satisfaction and adoption rates.
  • Better security outcomes: Security technology designed with users in mind is more likely to be used correctly and effectively, reducing the likelihood of security breaches or errors caused by user confusion or non-compliance.
  • Increased organizational efficiency: Human-centered security design can streamline security operations, reduce training requirements and minimize the need for support or intervention, saving organizations time and resources.
  • Positive organizational culture: By prioritizing employee well-being and satisfaction, human-centered safety design promotes a positive organizational culture by fostering collaboration, innovation and employee morale.

Why is it important to consider the human factor when planning security infrastructure?

  • First, every living being is vulnerable and all have vulnerabilities. Despite strong technical measures, people are still the weakest link in the security chain. Their behaviour, attitudes, beliefs and decisions can inadvertently expose organizations to vulnerabilities. Human errors - accidental or deliberate - can compromise sensitive information and systems.
  • Secondly, the level of people's education and awareness of specific issues contributes to or directly undermines the overall security situation. Awareness-raising and security training are common approaches to address the human factor. Organizations expect people to comply with security requirements and protect information assets. However, even with education and sanctions, vulnerabilities remain due to error, omission or deliberate action.
  • Thirdly, understanding human behaviour must also be taken into account. Security experts recognize that failures are inevitable in any human activity. People's behaviour is influenced by their experiences, cultural context and individual perspectives. Organizations need to understand the process of making sense of data protection practices.
  • Fourth, don't focus only on the weakest link in the organization. Of course, your security system is only as strong as its weakest link, but instead of focusing only on the weakest part, organizations should consider the reliable and resilient factors in the system. This perspective recognizes that people's decisions and experiences contribute to a continuous process of learning and adaptation.
  • And of course, the human factors approach: Technical solutions alone are not enough. The Human Factors (HF) approach recognizes that human behaviour and cognition are critical factors. How people interact with technology, follow procedures and make decisions must be taken into account when designing safe systems. Overall, integrating the human factor into the security infrastructure provides a more holistic and effective approach to protecting information and systems.


In general, understanding people-centered safety design means recognising that safety measures are most effective when they are tailored to the needs and capabilities of individuals. By incorporating user feedback, taking into account different points of view and prioritising the user experience, organisations can create safer environments that protect and empower everyone.

In essence, it is a beacon of hope to create security solutions that truly serve and protect the people they are designed to protect in an increasingly challenging age of complexity and uncertainty. By putting people at the heart of the design process, we can create safety systems that are not only effective and reliable, but also respectful, empathetic and empowering. As we continue to innovate and evolve in safety technology, let us never forget the people who ultimately benefit from our efforts.

For more information on this topic, to meet industry opinion leaders who will provide not only theoretical but also practical real-life examples, register for Nordic Sectech Summit 2024, an event that this year highlights the human factor, adapting to the new NIS 2 directive and designing security processes based on people's needs, preferences and how to tailor it all to your needs.

Apply for the Summit where you will have an opportunity to get all answers that bothers you.