Technology in the home environment has the potential to support older adults in a variety of ways. We took an interdisciplinary approach (human factors/ergonomics and computer science) to develop a technology "coach" that could support older adults in learning to use a medical device. Our system provided a computer vision system to track the use of a blood glucose meter and provide users with feedback if they made an error. This research could support the development of an in-home personal assistant to coach individuals in a variety of tasks necessary for independent living.
Physician sign-out is a mechanism for transferring patient information from one group of hospital care-givers to another at shift changes. Support tools are critical to the success of sign-out. To ensure that a tool is effective, designers must collaborate with end users, but collaboration can be difficult when working with users who are busy and have irregular schedules. In this article, we report on a collaborative effort between physicians and engineers to redesign a sign-out support tool. Strategies included focus groups, interviews, "on-the-fly" feedback, and an iterative design process, which engaged end users in the design process. Task analysis methods enabled us to quantify the differences in functionality between the original tool and the prototype.
Feature at a Glance - Physician sign-out is a mechanism for transferring patient information from one group of hospital caregivers to another at shift changes. Support tools are critical to the success of sign-out. To ensure that a tool is effective, designers must collaborate with end users. Collaboration can be difficult when working with end users who are busy and have irregular schedules. This article reports on a collaborative effort between physicians and engineers to redesign a sign-out support tool. Strategies included focus groups, interviews, "on the fly" feedback, and an iterative design process. Task analysis methods were used to compare the original tool with the prototype in order to quantify any differences in functionality. Last, we discuss general conclusions and offer practical techniques for engaging end-users in the design process.
On June 25, 1997, the Russian supply spacecraft Progress 234 collided with the Mir space station, rupturing Mir's pressure hull, throwing it into an uncontrolled attitude drift, and nearly forcing evacuation of the station. Like many high-profile accidents, this collision was the consequence of a chain of events leading to the final piloting errors that were its immediate cause. The discussion in this article does not resolve the relative contributions of the actions and decisions in this chain. Neither does it suggest corrective measures, many of which are straightforward and have already been implemented by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Russian Space Agency. Rather, its purpose is to identify the human factors that played a pervasive role in the incident. Workplace stress, fatigue, and sleep deprivation were identified by NASA as contributory factors in the Mir-Progress collision (Culbertson, 1997; NASA, forthcoming), but other contributing factors, such as requiring crew to perform difficult tasks for which their training is not current, could potentially become important factors in future situations.
A critical challenge in creating text entry interfaces for noncomputer-based devices is to devise a highly usable solution that blends aesthetic and functional concerns. As psychologists, we study user and environmental factors that facilitate usability, although this research often is not presented in a format that designers can use. This article presents a framework for guiding the systematic and comprehensive analysis of design requirements through the assessment of critical psychological components. We highlight several solutions from typing and mobile devices that can be directly transferred into a new system and note those areas that typically call for customized solutions.
This article describes the human factors and ergonomics (HF/E) design considerations of the accelerator and brake pedal configuration of a 1970 automobile in which a driver experienced unintended acceleration, resulting in injuries to a pedestrian when the car suddenly backed into him. HF/E experts were consulted by the attorneys for the defendant and for the plaintiff in the ensuing lawsuit. Their procedures, analyses, and conclusions centered on the requirements for the vertical and horizontal separations between the accelerator and the brake pedals to minimize inadvertent operation of the accelerator pedal when braking was intended.
Safety factor maps can provide a visual summary of the events associated with accidents and incidents. Because they employ conceptual mapping techniques, they enable both a hierarchical and temporal representation of the antecedents of an adverse event. We describe the development of safety factor maps and a strategy to assess both the reliability and the validity of the maps that are constructed. Our initial findings suggest that they have the potential to improve the accessibility of the outcomes of investigation reports.
This article describes the development of a prototype accessible in-flight entertainment (IFE) system for people with sensory disabilities. For passengers who are deaf or hard of hearing, the system provides access to content through user-selectable caption display of audio information. Those who are blind or have low vision can find content via talking menus and audio description of key visual content. Findings support the feasibility of project solutions and informed development of recommendations for accessible designs within industry IFE standards. Results are under review by the U.S. Department of Transportation in support of a proposed supplemental rulemaking on requirements for accessible IFE systems.
In this article, the author discusses the lack of ergonomics input in developing countries generally and the lack of collaboration between Africa and other countries, particularly developed nations. She describes forestry ergonomics collaboration between South Africa and Chile and a consultancy project completed by a South African company for an industry in Zimbabwe and Zambia. Noteworthy was the focus on low-cost and no-cost interventions aimed at improving the well-being of workers, who are generally of poor health and who participate in labor-intensive industries in poorer countries. The successes of these simple yet effective interventions are highlighted.
Amusement park developers have begun designing queue systems to make the wait for service less cumbersome for guests. Maister introduced a theoretical framework with eight guidelines for improving customer satisfaction and minimizing the perception of wait duration. These guide- lines were designed to be generalizable to a wide range of settings but do not fully take into account the unique characteristics of theme park queues. The following proposed guidelines offer a taxonomy for reducing the negative impact of subjective perception of time and provide a specific framework for designing these queued environments in an amusement park setting.
FEATURE AT A GLANCE: Simulation-based training (SBT) is a methodology for providing systematic and structured learning experiences. The effectiveness of this methodology depends partly on the quality of the performance measurement practices one is using. Performance during SBT must be diagnosed; that is, the causes of effective and ineffective performance must be determined. Diagnostic measurement drives the systematic decisions concerning corrective feedback and remediation. In this article, our purpose is to report evidence-based guidelines for performance measurement in SBT that we have synthesized from the literature and practical experience. We hope that these guidelines will serve to increase the quality of performance measurement and consequently the effectiveness of SBT.
Global workplaces and multinational organizations in the oil and gas industry have created an environment in which human factors/ergonomics professionals collaborate to solve office ergonomics and process control design problems for clients. The demand for ergonomics expertise is growing, but the supply of certified ergonomists is limited. The situation is acute in Southeast Asia (SEA), given the lack of ergonomics awareness, training, and certification. We present three challenges that required ergonomics interventions and collaboration among ergonomists. Two of the projects involved multinational companies operating in SEA and one, a national company with global operations.
Task analysis for the development of a virtual reality (VR) training system requires analysis and identification of the operator’s interactions with the real-world system and of the objectives of training and the trainee’s skill acquisition requirements. A task analysis approach for developing VR training simulators is presented that is based on analyzing the technology and training requirements concurrently. This approach is compared with traditional approaches for system development, with examples provided from the development of a VR training simulator for industrial maintenance and assembly tasks.
The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) plays a pivotal role in developing ergonomics at a global level. Through the federated societies in 49 countries, IEA brings together knowledge and resources to share and develop ergonomics education, research, and practice internationally. IEA also recognizes the relatively small size of this domain in the global community and is working to develop collaborations with larger and more influential organizations to integrate and expand exposure to ergonomics, such as with the International Organization for Standardization, the International Labor Organization, and the World Health Organization. Collaborations with other professional associations at an international level also assist in developing and integrating connections for mutual recognition of ergonomics research and practice. This article briefly describes some of IEA’s goals and activities.
Scientific research accesses the past to predict the future. The history of science is often best told by those who have lived it. Our purpose is to provide a brief history of human-automation interaction research, including a review of theories for describing human performance with automated systems, an accounting of automation effects on cognitive performance, a description of the origins of adaptive automation and key developments, and an identification of contemporary methods and issues in operator functional state classification. Based on this history and acknowledgements of the state of the art of human-automaton interaction, future predictions are offered.
We respond to claims that airline pilots may be losing their ability to manually control aircraft because overreliance on automation is eroding basic manual flying skills. We propose that better training is only a partial solution and that automation can be designed to better support human performance. We do not simply advocate more automation; rather, we envision a more context-aware automation design philosophy that promotes a more communicative and collaborative human-machine interface. Examples are used to illustrate the benefits of this approach. A companion piece to this article, which includes proposed mitigation interface designs, will be available in a subsequent issue of Ergonomics in Design.
How bad is a near miss? After the fact, the collision probability is zero. The real concern is what might have happened under slightly different conditions. In this article, I propose a safety measure commensurate with probability of collision for an event reenactment that depends on estimating the variability of closest proximity between vehicles. Example calculations are provided for several combinations of vehicles passing, stopping, or converging. Until recently, this radically different approach has been impractical, but new technology to measure and store proximity data changes that outlook. Various means are suggested by which the metric can be used to enhance driver safety.
Mandatory and voluntary standards for bunk beds were written to eliminate the risk of head and neck entrapment in end panels. However, these standards do not address entrapment potential in the area of a side-mounted ladder. This article profiles the fatal strangulation of one child whose head and neck slipped into the space between the side ladder and lower bunk. The use of anthropometry data was essential in detecting this design hazard. Moreover, had this type of analysis been conducted prior to the product’s entry into the marketplace, this hazard could have been prevented.
Accident analysis often requires reaction time estimates usually to determine a relatively simple reaction to a single stimulus, such as pressing the brake when a traffic event occurs. It is harder to find data for complex actions that are required to escape from a danger. Faced with the need to bound the time required to carry out cognitive functions and whole-body actions, the author turned to data from predetermined time systems – in particular, methods-time measurement – to show that a fatality could not have been prevented even if a warning signal had been given.
The industry standard for vented gas fireplaces allows the glass fronts to reach temperatures in excess of 1000°F (538C), depending on the type of glass used. Young children have suffered painful burns after inadvertently falling against or touching the hot glass. In many cases, the child’s parent was near the child when the injury occurred. This article explores human factors/ergonomics issues that play a role in burn injuries from gas fireplace glass, including consumer awareness of the hazard, child development, and product placement in the home. The limits of voluntary standards and need for mandatory regulation are discussed.
The expansion of interest in ergonomics worldwide, as evidenced by growth in the number of federated societies affiliated with the International Ergonomics Association (IEA), has been accompanied by growing awareness of the need for quality assurance regarding the training and credentials of professional ergonomists. Responsibility for such quality assurance often is assumed by professional ergonomist certifying bodies. This article addresses (a) the current status of professional ergonomist certification programs from an international perspective, as promulgated in a number of countries, and (b) the experience of selected certification programs with the IEA certifying body accreditation process.
Seemingly simple acts can go terribly wrong. Sometimes they result in litigation. Forensic human factors based in cognitive science can reveal some limitations in human perception, decision making, and action and how the design of things can fail to accommodate our limitations. The case studies indicate how design or maintenance could have prevented the injury incidents.
Although tactile applications have been explored heavily in the past decade, use on the head is rare. Army researchers are exploring the possibility of using a head-mounted tactile display to augment visual displays currently used for navigation. Such a tactile display has the potential to decrease the amount of information the user would otherwise process visually by off-loading the navigation task from the visual to the tactile modality while providing soldiers with a covert method of receiving directional information regarding a navigation or sniper detection task.
Corporations have been implementing ergonomics programs for more than 30 years. Initially, the purpose of these programs was improving operational efficiency by applying knowledge of human capabilities and limitations to the design of work. In recent years, corporate programs in the United States have increasingly focused on reducing the impact of work-related musculoskeletal disorders on both business and employee well-being. This article provides a brief summary of both types of ergonomics program strategies and describes my experiences leading two corporate ergonomics programs.
Ergonomics is applied most often in industrially developed countries with the systems and means to promote human-centered design. However, given that most of the world’s peoples are employed by or make their living through individual, small, or family-owned enterprises, and that many of those enterprises are located in industrially developing countries, there is a need for outreach that can bring the benefits of ergonomics to these diverse populations. In this article, we discuss three example approaches to practicing ergonomics in developing countries.
A scenario based on actual cases is presented in which a consumer fails to detect a gas leak. A spark source ignites the vapor, causing an explosion and fire. Odorant added to alert people of gas leaks is not always detected for a number of reasons, including nasal congestion, sleep, odor fade, masking, and adaptation or habituation. Electronic gas sensors that alarm in the presence of explosive gas are available in the consumer marketplace and could augment leak detection.
This article presents an analytical approach to the problem of information organization, with special emphasis on diagrammatic design. The approach involves three levels: (a) abstraction of data into representational elements, (b) integration of these elements to create coherent structures of information, and (c) configuration of such coherent structures, through underlying order, into a whole. To illustrate this approach, the abstract map (the “Diagram”) of the London underground is analyzed, and the design techniques observed are brought to the fore. The article concludes with several principles that can be encapsulated as constraints for an algorithmic approach to diagram generation.
The primary goal of the ergonomist is to develop systems and products that increase productivity, function intuitively, and minimize the user’s risk of injury and illness. Injuries occur when a system or product does not fit or was not designed for the capabilities of the user. The physical ergonomist plays an important role in litigation in reducing the risk of large damages or settlements through improved design. This article outlines three cases that demonstrate how a physical ergonomist uses established methods and techniques to analyze litigation cases.
This article discusses trends in forensic ergonomics from the author’s historical perspective. His premise is that two dominant forces converged in the United States over the past four decades to allow the specialty to emerge, namely, new government legislation and entrepreneurial opportunities for ergonomists in the private sector. He concludes that public policy initiatives, evolving legislation, laws, and the inevitable resulting lawsuits in the coming decades will shape the direction of forensic ergonomics.
This article introduces forensic organizational ergonomics through the presentation of a case study of worker injury. It describes how a consultant expert in organizational ergonomics revealed systematic failures of management and design within an organization that ultimately exposed employees, contractors, visitors, and patients of a medical center to harmful chlorine gas. The case study demonstrates how forensic organizational ergonomics can bring meaning to and understanding of the role of human performance in modern complex technologies to those charged with decision making in litigation.
As consumer electronics products increasingly compete by offering technologies and features, it becomes increasingly important to offer the user a superior experience. This helps to ensure a more durable presence, differentiation, and recognition for the product. Although user experience and technology adoption are often viewed as independent entities, they are inseparable in practice. For this reason, product designers and human factors/ergonomics engineers are being called on more than ever before to leverage new technology to support ease of use and an improved user experience. This case study presents an overview of how various methodologies found within the user-centered design process were used in a large-scale project, resulting in the design and development of the Kodak EasyShare-One Digital Camera. Copyright 2006 by Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, Inc. All rights reserved.
The authors report their experience from various task analysis projects in which users have been observed in situ. Solutions for simultaneous video recording, often needed to adequately observe and analyze a workspace, are discussed. Of the various analog- and digital-based solutions, the authors deem a low-cost solution using entry-level computer hardware to produce sufficiently high-fidelity feedback for most task analysis purposes. Such systems can be acquired and set up by novice computer users for a fraction of the cost of broadcast video systems. A case study demonstrates the application of one such inexpensive solution.
In this article, I present six forensics human factors/ergonomics cases that are typical of many situations in which the defendant had no intent to harm the plaintiff and the plaintiff made a (perhaps foreseeable) mistake. Human factors/ergonomics arguments on both sides delved into the latent hazards associated with the product or system design and operation. In some of the cases, the design decision was made for a reasonable purpose, but the safety trade-off was either not considered or simply ignored. In other cases, the “victim” did not behave as intended but did behave in a foreseeable way.
Pallet jacks used in manual material handling jobs are commonly pulled behind the operator to allow full visibility, resulting in awkward shoulder extension and trunk rotation. In this laboratory study, we compared an alternative handle with a standard handle during use when traveling with the pallet jack behind the operator. Total oxygen consumption, usability, comfort, and preference were compared between the two handles. The results showed different advantages associated with each handle design, leading to the conclusion that a secondary handle, used in conjunction with a primary standard handle, may be a beneficial intervention for pallet jack use.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) national public service advertising campaign "Preparing Makes Sense. Get Ready Now" is a project initiated in response to possible terrorist attacks. The centerpiece of the campaign is a Web site that makes use of pictorial safety symbols to communicate the nature of the hazards and the behavior necessary to avoid injury. Given the importance of this initiative, a recent study tested the understanding of a sample of the at-risk population for the message content being conveyed by the DHS pictorial safety symbols. The study obtained evidence that there are limitations to the use of pictorial safety symbols that, in some instances, detract from their effectiveness as warnings.
The arena of forensics often requires that the human factors expert witness do research that deviates from the classical paradigm of rigid control of independent variables to obtain resulting data. Indeed, in the judicial process, an experiment with only one independent variable and a single subject (or device) may reach beyond statistical significance and be vitally pivotal to judicial decisions. This article provides examples in which very limited research experiments were conducted by the author and that provided critical data to assist juries to reach conclusions pertinent to human behavior and equipment design in accident situations.
Organizations' increasing use of virtual teams has emphasized the importance of effective virtual team leadership. Yet the distribution of team members complicates typical leader functions, such as supervision and support, which the leader must now perform through technology. In this article, we present 10 strategies for managing virtual teams, focusing on the role of technology and training. Our hope is that these strategies will inform designers and guide them in developing collaborative support tools and procedures for these tools and in designing training for the use of these tools.
Human response times fit a lognormal probability function, which poses severe constraints on the time a system designer must allow to accommodate a significant fraction of respondents; for example, 6 standard deviations for 95% confidence and 11 standard deviations for 99% confidence. When a human operates in series with machine elements, there may be no justification for demanding a quick response from the machine.