Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A Strategy for Human Factors/Ergonomics as a Discipline and Profession

ergoweb 19 September 2012. 

Peter Budnick refers to a paper from the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (IEHF).  "In essence, the topic boils down to a few key questions, at least in my mind:
  • is there such thing as an ergonomics discipline or profession?
  • if so, what and who does it encompass?"
It is suggested their are four main reasons why Human Factors/Ergonomics (HFE) is under-utilized:
  1. many potential beneficiaries are not aware of the value HFE can bring;
  2. sometimes when there is a demand for HFE, there isn't enough "high-quality HFE," or that the available HFE resources are too limited in scope to be recognized as applicable;
  3. the HFE field is small in comparison to established design disciplines such as engineering and psychology, and though HFE principles may be applied within these disciplines, there may be no explicit reference to the HFE discipline.
  4. "... the very strength of HFE, its multi-disciplinary base, is also a potential weakness; a diversity of topics, views and practices exist within the HFE community, resulting in unclear communication to the external world."
 Key characteristics of HFE are identified as
  1. HFE takes a systems approach.
  2. HFE is design driven.
  3. HFE focuses on two related outcomes: performance and well-being.

The value of HFE for stakeholders
The committee recognizes that the demand for HFE is directly related to the perceived value of HFE among stakeholders of system design. They identify those stakeholders as (interested readers are directed to the full paper, cited below, for additional details):
  • System actors (employees in work-systems, and end-users for products and services) who can benefit from HFE through:
    • Improved physical, psychological and social well-being
    • Higher motivation, growth and job satisfaction 
    • Improved performance 
    • Better experience
    • Shorter time of familiarization
    • Better fitting of products/services to individual characteristics/needs
    • Fewer mistakes
    • Greater efficiency
  • System experts (any of a variety of professionals that can be involved in a design effort) who can benefit from HFE through:
    • Better users’ acceptance of designed systems
    • Better performance
    • Better fit with (legal) standards 
    • Improved development process 
  • System decision makers (e.g., managers, purchasers) who can benefit from HFE through:
    • Better productivity
    • Better quality and reliability of production processes and produced goods and services
    • Lower operating costs due to lower levels of health problems, motivational deficits, accidents, absenteeism, and related productivity loss
    • More innovation by increased employee creativity 
    • Better reputation for hiring and retention of talented employees
    • Better decision-making
    • Better market performance 
    • Greater profitability
    • Less re-design
  • System influencers who can benefit from HFE through:
    • Social wealth
    • Economic wealth

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