HFE Workforce Development Project

The HFE WDP Governance Group (HASANZ chair, HFESNZ chair and an HFESNZ member) will oversee the WDP. The key bodies involved are identified in Figure 1. The initial project set-up phase is being driven by the WDP Establishment Group which sits within the HFESNZ committee.

Figure 1. HFE WDP project diagram

The aim of the project is to firstly upskill individuals in HFE knowledge/ability and secondly create a demand for HFE expertise across key sectors. To do this, four workstreams have been proposed, which are: competence framework review; HFE education; scholarship and mentoring; and stakeholder understanding and job creation. Additional detail about the content and scope of each workstream is provided below. In all cases workstreams need a Project Lead and Project Team. They will develop a plan to meet project objectives and be actively involved in their subsequent implementation. More detail  

Workstream 1 – Competence Framework Review

The purpose of this workstream is to conduct a review of competence frameworks in order to provide a base for the subsequent development of a tertiary education programme that will comply to the standards of certification with the HFESNZ and IEA. The scope of Workstream 1 includes conducting a review of existing competence frameworks and to introduce a cultural competence component into the HFESNZ framework. 

Workstream 2 – HFE Education

The HFE Education workstream is tasked with developing a tertiary education programme that complies with the standards required for HFESNZ certification. This workstream will work with NZ universities to develop a fit for purpose sustainable HFE education programme. The workstream will build off previous work undertaken by NZ universities and involve all education providers. The scope of Workstream 2 involves overseeing the development of a HFE tertiary education programme and ensure all NZ universities and relevant stakeholders are represented in the process. 

Workstream 3 – HFE Scholarships and Mentoring

The HFE scholarship and mentoring workstream is pitched at increasing the current capacity and capability of HFE professionals through the awarding of scholarships and development and implementation of a mentoring programme. The scope of Workstream 3 is to oversee the setup and award HFE Scholarships leveraging off the existing HASANZ scholarship programme and identify education and training for professional members of HFESNZ to undertake mentoring and support roles. This will involve professional leadership activities and leveraging off other H&S disciplines mentoring programme (where appropriate).

Workstream 4 – Stakeholder Knowledge and Job Creation

The purpose of this workstream is to raise the profile of HFE across key sectors in NZ. It is likely to involve extensive networking and adopting a creative approach in identifying and realising opportunities for HFE in terms of job creation. The scope of Workstream 4 is to identify key stakeholders and develop content, collateral, case studies, videos, etc that can be used to showcase the value of HFE and to work creatively to increase the reach and influence of HFE across all sectors, networking as appropriate.

HFESNZ Workforce Development Proposal, May 2020

The HFESNZ responded to the HASANZ 'Building the Professions' (2019) report with a proposal for human factors/ergonomics workforce development. 

The executive summary of this Workforce Development Proposal is given here:

  1. The HFE education pathway is incomplete for the purpose of supporting comprehensive HFE competence in New Zealand, although we receive many enquiries from people interested in gaining HFE qualifications and wanting to work in the field. A collaborative education program to meet New Zealand’s HFE needs appears possible but requires resourcing to negotiate the challenges of current tertiary funding models. Our current HFE professionals are so few and the need for HFE services and education/training opportunities so pressing that, while we seek investment to develop domestic capacity, interim measures are also required to ensure supply. Scholarships for students to complete courses that meet all HFE competencies are needed and recruitment of overseas HFE qualified/certified professionals may also be necessary to supplement local expertise.
  2. Demand for HFE services is increasing, especially in healthcare, and could be much higher if there was wider awareness of the organisational health, safety and productivity gains HFE professionals can offer through their unique systems approach and utilisation of design interventions.
  3. Given the small number of fully qualified HFE professionals in New Zealand, there is insufficient capacity for the current professional base to complete their paid job-related tasks and advance the HFE profession to the extent needed. Profession-essential functions such as maintenance of professional HFE standards, advancement of education/training opportunities, organising professional development events and creating wider awareness of the profession both for those who might consider training as HFE professionals and organisations who could benefit from HFE inputs, are currently being undertaken in an almost entirely voluntary capacity. Resources are needed to support these activities so that HFE-enabled improvements in New Zealand health and safety outcomes can be more fully realised. 

The proposal goes on to describe the key issues for HFE in New Zealand. This includes:

  • Lack of critical mass. Only 22 of around 100 society members are Professional Members. Most work in consultancy and/or are employed in an HFE or associated role, and around a quarter are involved with teaching in HFE and associated fields.
  • Limited training and education pathways. Whilst some HFE tertiary education papers are available and being developed, there is no NZ university programme offering a full and complete education program suitable for HFE certification. (See Appendix A). International education options are cost prohibitive and the pathways complex. However, the demand for HFE education is consistent, with requests for HFE education programmes received monthly through the HFESNZ.
  • Limited HFESNZ resourcing. The small professional society runs on a largely voluntary basis, to date employing only a part time administrator and providing the HASANZ representative with a meeting honorarium. All other activities are run by volunteer committee members and office holders. While this largely voluntary structure is appropriate for maintaining the operation of the society, there is insufficient capacity within the HFESNZ to develop the strategic areas that would positively benefit health and safety in New Zealand.
  • Limited access to quality HFE professional development opportunities. Existing professional members work within their time and energy resources to create and run professional development events, but these need to be boosted to meet demand.
  • Lack of job-related value in gaining professional membership. Whilst other society (and non-society) members are in the position to become Professional Members, employers (including government agencies) are not consistently requiring and supporting the development of Professional Membership among those staff they employ for their HFE knowledge. This is slowing the movement of General Members into Professional Membership.
  • Lack of understanding and awareness of the profession. Advice may be sought from unqualified or inappropriate sources because designers, employers, and procurement agents (and other health and safety professionals) do not have awareness of the HFE profession - for example managers assuming that ‘ergonomic design standards’ can be adequately addressed by a health and safety generalist, a workplace physiotherapist or occupational therapist, or an engineer (if at all). As a result, the broad-spectrum benefits that an HFE professional could have provided may be insufficiently captured resulting in poor health, safety and productivity outcomes.
  • Provision of inaccurate ‘HFE’ advice by consultants asked to do work they are not sufficiently qualified or experienced to do. Practitioners from other disciplines may have poor knowledge of their practice boundaries and may be operating completely outside of HFESNZ’s professional networks and appropriate professional practice. HASANZ’s work with the Register, and other activities are working to address this, but it remains a problem in the HFE field, where the titles ‘ergonomist’ and ‘human factors professional’ are not protected by law.
  • Increasing HFE service demand. Following HSWA 2015 there has been an increase in the demand for HFE services but there remains a small number of qualified HFE professionals, and a predicted increase in service demands (e.g. with WorkSafe’s imminent focus on health and safety by design and musculoskeletal and psychosocial harm in the workplace, among other developments).
  • Ageing workforce. Two thirds of the current workforce are over the age of 45, suggesting demographic pressures for the future.

A number of goals and initiatives are outlined and a funding package to enable these proposed. Read the full HFESNZ Workforce Development Proposal here.

HASANZ Health and Safety Workforce Pipeline Report, 'Building the Professions', November 2019

This November 2019 HASANZ report provides the first ever review of capacity, capability and demand within New Zealand’s health and safety workforce – including in the discipline of human factors/ergonomics. The report suggests that New Zealand will need at least another 2,100 health and safety professionals (across all disciplines) over the next 10 years – with the actual number likely to be higher given growing demand for advice and services.

It highlights challenges facing the workforce and makes recommendations aimed at improving things like competency frameworks, accessibility to education and training, and continuing professional development. The report identifies priority areas for action, including addressing issues facing human factors and ergonomics professionals, health and safety generalists, hazardous substances professionals, occupational hygienists, and occupational health nurses.

It was funded by WorkSafe and the Skills Organisation and includes input from the health and safety professional associations, including HFESNZ. The findings will be used to support workforce planning. 

Building the Professions Report, Nov 2019