Ergonomics and human factors

6 June 2017

Human factors and ergonomics focuses on designing the world to better accommodate people. As a unique scientific discipline, human factors and ergonomics systematically applies the knowledge of human abilities and limitations to the design of systems with the goal of optimizing the interaction between people and other system elements to enhance safety, performance, and satisfaction. Human factors are relevant anywhere people work with systems, whether they are ocial or technical in nature.

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The breadth of these sociotechnical systems include situations and circumstances where people interact with other system elements including: Artifacts (e. g. , tools, machines, products, software, etc. ) Tasks Environments Teams Organizations Legal (e. g. , regulations, enforcement, etc. ) and political To learn more about each of these elements, the interested reader should consult the writings of Carayon (2006), Carayon and Smith (2000), Karwowski (2000), Moray (2000), and Wilson (2000).

Within the last 100 years, a broad spectrum of industries ave benefitted by deliberately focusing on how people interact with systems. These industries include: Aerospace Automotive Computer Consumer products Construction Defense Forestry Healthcare Manufacturing Mining Nuclear Petroleum Telecommunications Textile The gamut of work human factors and ergonomics practitioners perform is great and has been discussed in greater detail by Karwowski (2005; 2006) and Salvendy (2006). A Brief History of HF and E Born of necessity and collaboration In the United States, the discipline of human factors and ergonomics, is generally onsidered to have originated during World War II (Wickens & Hollands, 2000), although advances that contributed to its formation can be traced to the turn of the 20th century. Prior to World War II, the focus was “designing the human to fit the machine” (i. e. , trial and error), instead of designing machines to fit the human (p. 3).

This can be found in Frederick Taylor’s work studying selection, training, workrest schedules, and time & motion studies of industrial workers (Taylor, 1911), and through the extension of his time & motions studies, by Frank and Lillian Gilbreth Gilbreth, 1914; Gilbreth & Gilbreth, 1917). Many of the human factors and ergonomic advances originated out of military necessity. With the start of World War l, the first conflict to employ the newly invented airplane in combat, the need arose for methods to rapidly select and train qualified pilots.

This prompted the development of aviation psychology and the beginning of to Meister (1999), the impetus for developing the discipline wasn’t met due to a lack of “critical mass of technology and personnel as there was in World War II” (p. 149). The time between World War I and World War II saw a reduction in research, lthough some achievements were made. Aeromedical research continued to see advances in laboratories built at Brooks Air Force Base in Texas and Wright Field in Ohio.

These laboratories performed studies that focused on further identifying the characteristics of successful pilots, and determining what effects environmental stressors had on flight performance. Also, the basics of anthropometry (the study of human body measurements) were applied to the design of airplanes in this time period. In the private sector, automobile driving behavioral research was also conducted (Forbes, 1939). The outbreak of World War II, and the two inherent needs it generated, formed the catalyst for developing the human factors and ergonomics discipline.

First, the need to mobilize and employ vast numbers of men and women made it impractical to select individuals for specific Jobs. Thus, the focus shifted to designing for people’s capabilities, while minimizing the negative consequences of their limitations. Second, World War II witnessed the tipping point where the technological advances had finally outpaced the ability of people to adapt and compensate to poor designs. This was most evident in airplane crashes by highly- trained pilots due to problems with control confgurations (Fitts & Jones, 1947a) and instrument displays (Fitts & Jones, 1947b).

Also, enemy contacts were missed by motivated radar operators (Wickens & Hollands, 2000). Experimental psychologists were retained to study these issues by adapting laboratory techniques to solve applied problems. Consequently, the discipline of human factors and ergonomics was born, even if the people (e. g. , Paul Fitts, Alphonse Chapanis, Arnold Small, etc. ) involved didn’t realize it at the time (Meister, 1999). The two decades following the end of World War II saw the continuation of military- sponsored research, driven in large part, by the Cold War.

Military research laboratories established during the war were expanded and additional ones were developed by the Army (Human Engineering Benchmark Research & Safety, Inc. Practical solutions for complex problems Copyright 2008 3 Laboratory), the Air Force (Air Force Personnel and Training Research Center), and the Navvy (Naval Electronics Laboratory). Universities also established laboratories, with the assistance of government funding, including ones at the University of Illinois Aviation Psychology Laboratory) in 1946, and Ohio State University (Laboratory of Aviation Psychology) in 1949.

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