Donna Daly

“Being part of a focus to improve safety and prevent injuries is incredibly rewarding.”
Donna Daly profile pic
Donna Daly profile pic

Human Factors Specialist, Jacobs Engineering Group

Background: Bachelor of Psychology

“There is a real sense of purpose working in rail. There are so many rail infrastructure projects going on and so few human factor specialists.

I started at Sydney Trains in the rail safety area working largely on track protection projects to improve track safety. The pay-off was great. From the very beginning I could see that the work I was doing was helping to prevent serious incidents. It was hugely motivating.

I didn’t start out looking for a career in rail. During school I was set on a becoming a professional musician. After graduating from the Sydney Conservatorium, I soon realised the music scene couldn’t provide the structure and stability I needed in life.

I began a psychology degree and was looking for a scholarship to help pay the university fees and give me experience in a real-world setting. I got the scholarship through Transport for NSW and was placed at Sydney Trains.

My manager was interested in human factors, the study of interactions between humans and systems, such as phones, trains or the entire rail network. We’re primarily interested in the potential of human error to arise.

Working with an RTO (rail transport operator), part of my job was analysing the incidents that come in every day. From the beginning, I could see that the work I was doing was helping to prevent serious injuries from happening. Being part of a focus to improve track safety is really rewarding.

In my final year honour thesis, I directed my studies to an applied setting by helping with some risk assessment decisions my manager had to make.

I coupled empirical research with virtual reality technology. The participants absolutely loved it. It’s something Sydney rains are looking at bringing into the training and induction process to familiarise people with track.

I’m working with the Jacobs Engineering Group now as a consultant on their rail team. I work with a lot of different people including designers and engineers to ensure physical assets and procedures are designed for optimal human use.

As a human factor specialist, I get to interact with end users to understand their concerns about safety and their work environment. To be able to say to people, ‘I’m here to take that on and help to make things better’, is very rewarding.”