The science and practice of Human Factors and Ergonomics is broad. It is successfully applied in many areas - from the design of baby car seats to the layout of ambulances and hospitals and the function of wheelchairs; and from the operation of control rooms, the design of hazardous processes, and the design of shift schedules; to product design, safe and effective work techniques for manual tasks, and the nature of our work environments (etc). Human factors/ergonomics professionals can be found working in the transport industry, in defence, in the energy industry, in design, in computer software/hardware and web usability design, in health and safety, in healthcare, and in a broad range of manufacturing and corporate environments (and everywhere in between). You may find us, or a need for our input, wherever humans work, and wherever systems, tasks, equipment and environments need to be designed well for safe and efficient task performance with excellent usability.
The unique skills of ergonomists and human factors professionals are built on knowledge from disciplines including anatomy, physiology, psychology and design, and taking a ‘systems approach’ to deliver design improvements. They understand the physical and cognitive capabilities of people; organisational and social factors, and how within a system people, products, technologies and physical workspaces interact. Human factors professionals/ergonomists work with system users at all stages of design and evaluation of designs, and may work as part of larger product and system design teams.
The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as:
"the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimise human well-being and overall system performance."
We have developed our own 'kiwi' short version:
'Making life work better, together'.
This reflects the process of changing something about life - be it at work or at home or somewhere in between (or over-arching); improving performance and outcomes; and doing it by working with the people.
Human factors and ergonomics use ‘systems approaches’ that recognise that things, procedures, environments and people do not exist in isolation. Ergonomists/human factors professionals are committed to designing with the human user in mind, and with recognition of individual differences in human capacity. They recognise that the design of things and procedures influences human behaviour and wellbeing. They utilise empirical data and evaluation in the design process, and rely on scientific methods and objective data to test hypotheses and generate data about human behaviour. (Ref. Sanders and McCormick, 1993, 7th ed).
The Human Connection’ is a 2016 document from the Chartered Institute of Human Factors and Ergonomics (UK) that sets out a range of case studies exploring the contributions of ergonomics and human factors within many sectors. A variety of human factors/ergonomics goals, methods and approaches are outlined under the categories of ‘simplicity and effectiveness’, ‘comfort and performance’ and ‘efficiency and safety’. Case studies are from rail, transport, security, retail, healthcare, utilities, office, distribution, defence and manufacturing sectors. This resource highlights the value of human factors/ergonomics to industry, educators, policy makers and research funders. We thank our UK colleagues for their excellent work in producing The Human Connection.
A 2016 ACC document that was produced in liaison with HASANZ, described the roles of the different health and safety professionals in New Zealand. The human factors/ergonomics services were described as:
Common terms for standard HFE services frequently requested by New Zealand businesses include:
HFE professionals will first clarify the exact service needs of the client, and tailor the services to suit.
Control panel design
Control room design
Computer workstation assessment
Computer workstation design
Data gathering/analysis (interviews, questionnaires, observations)
Design concept development
Ergonomics programme design
Ergonomics programme implementation
Ergonomics/human factors education
Evaluation of change
Health monitoring – discomfort/injury
Health promotion interventions
Human centred design
Human error prevention
Human factors engineering
Human force/load measurement
Human interface design
Injury prevention interventions
Manual handling assessment
Manual handling interventions/programmes
Posture/movement analysis/risk assessment
Standards/codes of practice
Upper limb disorders
Understanding complex systems
Work space layout
Work system analysis
Work system design
Whole body vibration