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Strategies to develop and strengthen human factors and ergonomics knowledge among stakeholders in Sweden

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Abstract

Knowledge and application of human factors and ergonomics (HFE) has significant potential as a useful tool and solution provider in the development, design and implementation of safe, efficient and sustainable artefacts and systems. Yet, it seems that this HFE knowledge is not utilised to its full potential. In a world of competing financial and commercial priorities, HFE specialists have apparently not succeeded in selling the systems approach as a tool towards improved overall systems performance and human well-being. The present paper describes the strategic and practical work performed by the Swedish Ergonomics and Human Factors Society (EHSS) to strengthen the quality of human factors and ergonomics knowledge and practice among various stakeholders in Sweden. EHSS view human factors and ergonomics as a systems and design oriented discipline that extends across all aspects of human activity. Beyond the traditional domains of specialization within the discipline, the physical, cognitive and organisational ergonomics, EHSS has identified three focus areas; visual ergonomics, voice ergonomics and ergonomics design for all. Within these Practitioner Summary: This paper presents the strategic and practical work performed by the Swedish Ergonomics and Human Factors Society (EHSS) in order to strengthen the quality of human factors and ergonomics knowledge and practice in Sweden. EHSS has identified three focus areas for its strategic work: visual ergonomics, voice ergonomics and ergonomics design for all.
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Strategies to develop and strengthen human factors and ergonomics knowledge
among stakeholders in Sweden
Jane Ahlina, Cecilia Östermanb Anna-Lisa Osvalderc, Hillevi Hemphäläd, Susanne Glimnee,
Göran M Häggf, Olle Janzong ,Per Johan Petterssonh and Mathias Staverviki
a President, Swedish Ergonomics and Human Factors Society (EHSS); bLinnaeus University;
cChalmers University of Technology; dLund University; eKarolinska Institutet;
eKTH Royal Institute of Technology; gSSAB Europe; hMeridentOptergo AB; iEricsson
SWEDEN
Knowledge and application of human factors and ergonomics (HFE) has significant potential as a
useful tool and solution provider in the development, design and implementation of safe, efficient and
sustainable artefacts and systems. Yet, it seems that this HFE knowledge is not utilised to its full
potential. In a world of competing financial and commercial priorities, HFE specialists have apparently
not succeeded in selling the systems approach as a tool towards improved overall systems
performance and human well-being. The present paper describes the strategic and practical work
performed by the Swedish Ergonomics and Human Factors Society (EHSS) to strengthen the quality
of human factors and ergonomics knowledge and practice among various stakeholders in Sweden.
EHSS view human factors and ergonomics as a systems and design oriented discipline that extends
across all aspects of human activity. Beyond the traditional domains of specialization within the
discipline, the physical, cognitive and organisational ergonomics, EHSS has identified three focus
areas; visual ergonomics, voice ergonomics and ergonomics design for all. Within these
Practitioner Summary: This paper presents the strategic and practical work performed by the
Swedish Ergonomics and Human Factors Society (EHSS) in order to strengthen the quality of human
factors and ergonomics knowledge and practice in Sweden. EHSS has identified three focus areas for
its strategic work: visual ergonomics, voice ergonomics and ergonomics design for all.
Keywords: human factors, visual ergonomics, inclusive design, voice ergonomics, social
sustainability
1. Introduction
The multi-disciplinary science and practice of human factors and ergonomics (HFE) is systems oriented and
design driven and embrace all aspects of human work. It implies the design of tasks, artefacts, systems and
environments to be compatible with human physical and mental needs, abilities and limitations (Chapanis,
1996). Despite the continuous technological achievements through society, humans are still present in many,
if not all, systems; acting as e.g. users, operators, maintainers and designers. Even a highly automated
system requires people in any case to start, stop, monitor and occasionally perform service and
maintenance on equipment within the system. Hence, it is necessary to take into account the physical,
cognitive and social abilities and limitations of the humans when developing both simple and complex
system solutions. The variation within the user community is large, from the population in working life, to
children, elderly, people with disabilities and people from different cultures. In any given context, all these
user groups should be provided with the possibility to interact with technical and other solutions correctly.
There is a large body of knowledge available on the importance of human factors and ergonomics to
successful (and unsuccessful) systems and joint performance and well-being outcomes. Positive effects can
be found for individuals, companies and for the society as a whole (Mossink & De Greef, 2002). This
knowledge is manifested for instance in scientific literature, handbooks, guidelines and standards on how to
develop and implement system solutions that are effective, safe, sustainable, and comfortable for the users.
Yet, it seems that this knowledge, and the application of HFE principles and methods in practice, is not
utilised to its full potential. In a world of competing financial and commercial priorities, HFE specialists have
apparently not succeeded in selling the systems approach as a tool towards improved overall systems
Proceedings 19th Triennial Congress of the IEA, Melbourne 9-14 August 2015
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performance and human well-being (Dul et al., 2012). Rather, there are islands of knowledge and pockets of
practice that still remain to be linked.
The work presented in this paper is largely inspired by the position paper by Dul et al. (2012) that
propose a joint world-wide HFE development plan and strategies at several national and international levels
in order to strengthen and develop the HFE discipline and profession. The suggested main strategy for the
future of HFE combines three interrelated elements into a HFE demand development cycle(Dul et al., 2012,
p. 388): a stakeholder’s demand for high-quality HFE, which can stimulate the application of high-quality
HFE, which can raise the stakeholders awareness of the need, which may in turn further increase the
stakeholder’s demand for high-quality HFE.
One attempt to meet this strategy for the future from a national perspective has been done in Sweden,
where relevant stakeholders and their needs have been identified, to be able to develop strategies for
communication, building partnerships and advance HFE education.
Specifically, the present paper describes the strategic and practical work performed by the Swedish
Ergonomics and Human Factors Society (EHSS). The overall aim is to develop and strengthen the quality of
human factors and ergonomics knowledge and practice among various stakeholders in Sweden.
2. Swedish Ergonomics and Human Factors Society
The Swedish Ergonomics and Human Factors Society (EHSS) consists of about 350 professional and
student members across the nation, representing different occupations in industry, academia and public
sector at governmental, regional and local level. The majority of the members have professions as engineers,
physiotherapists, psychologists and designers working as practitioners, researchers, professors and
designers. Together, the members cover knowledge and experience in physical, cognitive and organizational
ergonomics. The application areas for education, research and design are broad; from product development
and working environments to complex socio-technical systems such as health care, aviation, maritime, traffic
and public transports as well as process and nuclear industry. Although the members are based in Sweden,
many of them work on a global arena.
The composition of the EHSS board mirrors the diversity of its members and consists of
representatives from different disciplines and sectors; public, industry and academia and includes both
scientists and practitioners. The members of the board work with ergonomics and human factors issues in
their ordinary work as researchers, teachers, practitioners or designers. The strategic and practical work
performed by EHSS is in many cases also performed by the board members in their daily working life.
The overall goal of EHSS is to create value for the members and form a multidisciplinary platform for
collaboration across disciplines and professions. Further, EHSS aims to support and disseminate research
results, methods and tools into practice, for example evaluation methods for user interaction, physical and
mental work loads and risk analysis.
2.1 Stakeholder interaction and strategic focus areas
In order to develop and maintain stakeholder interaction and networking, EHSS regularly arrange
breakfast meetings, after work sessions and one-day seminars for the members. EHSS also participates in
scientific and trade conferences, both nationally and internationally, as well as in events related to the area
such as the World Usability Day. EHSS also administers a student prize on master thesis level each year,
where the winning student participates in the coming Nordic Ergonomics and Human Factors Society (NES)
conference and presents the work in a Nordic competition between students. Also, EHSS carries out
evaluations of ergonomic products on the market.
Beyond the traditional areas of physical, cognitive and organisational ergonomics, EHSS has identified
three strategic areas, both from a research and from a societal level, to be important to focus on and learn
more about. One area is visual ergonomics, the multi-disciplinary science concerned with understanding
human visual processes and the interactions between humans and other elements of a system (Long et al.,
2014). Another area is voice ergonomics, which is an aspect of human interaction with the working
environment that has not been paid much attention to until now, as being one part of a sustainable working
life. The third area is inclusive design, which deals with ergonomic design for all users in society, including
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the increasing number of ageing workers in Sweden. This area is important for improvement of social
sustainability in society and working life.
3. Visual ergonomics
The multi-disciplinary nature of visual ergonomics pose a challenge when wanting to obtain a comprehensive
picture of all factors concerned in this field. Figure 1 presents a mind-map of how different factors can affect
the eyes, muscles, headache, circadian rhythm, visual performance and productivity (Hemphälä, 2014). The
mind-map shows how different visual ergonomics factors can affect each other. The blue boxes with arrows
show the interventions, the green boxes show the environment and the beige boxes show the human
responses. The causality for most of the factors is not known (Hemphälä, 2014). As illustrated in Figure 1,
the lighting situation, the visual aids, the psychosocial and physical work environment (work tasks) can affect
vision and perceived visual ability. Visual ability can affect musculoskeletal activity and may cause
discomfort, but the relationship between eyestrain and musculoskeletal strain in the neck and shoulders is
still unclear. If the visual system is exposed to glare or other visual disturbances it might cause headaches.
Visual performance and productivity can be affected by the physical work environment, any musculoskeletal
discomfort, any eyestrain, and the level of alertness (circadian rhythm).
Figure 1 The chart model shows how the different visual ergonomics factors can affect each other. The blue
boxes show the interventions, the green boxes the environment, and the beige boxes the human responses
(Hemphälä, 2014).
Many different disciplines are needed to get a good visual environment; e.g. optometrists, occupational
ergonomists, lighting designers, architects, ophthalmologists, working life inspectors. To facilitate visual
ergonomic knowledge and to promote visual ergonomics as a discipline, it is important to arrange visual
ergonomics workshops and lectures. The different professions that deal with the visual environment need to
cooperate to facilitate learning at a higher level.
To accommodate for this need, a network for Visual Ergonomics practitioners called SNiS
(Synergonomiskt Nätverk i Sverige) was setup within EHSS in 2007. Twice a year, the network arranges a
day with seminars, at no cost, for all EHSS members. These seminars have contributed to increased
awareness of the importance of a good visual environment.
In 2010 a visual ergonomic research network started, called ErgoVision, which include researchers from
different professions in the Scandinavian countries. The focus of this network is to define what visual
ergonomics is, to gather information on what type of research that was performed and to evaluate the level
of knowledge within the area of visual ergonomics present in the Scandinavian countries.
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The researchers in the ErgoVision network regularly give shorter lectures about visual ergonomics to
increase the awareness of the visual environment as a risk factor. In addition, a book about vision and
lighting at work places has also been published in Swedish (Nylén, 2012). Members of the ErgoVision
network has also contributed to a report published by the Swedish Work Environment Authority about the
ageing eye and the need for more light with increased age (Arbetsmiljöverket, 2012b).
The NES conferences have become a meeting ground for individuals interested within the field of visual
ergonomics. A Visual Ergonomics network is in charge of Visual ergonomics sessions at the conference. The
researchers within the ErgoVision also have meetings at the NES conference. Because of these annual
meetings the collaboration between the researchers has increased. A tool for visual ergonomics risk analysis
method is being developed by some of the Swedish researchers from the ErgoVision network (presented as
a poster at the IEA conference 2015). Studies with the effect of glare or visual blur on the eyes and muscles
in the neck and shoulder region are also being performed by a number of researchers within the ErgoVision
network.
Since these networks have started the awareness of the importance of visual ergonomics have been
higher among the members of EHSS. Longer visual ergonomic courses (5 weeks) on a regular basis are so
far only given to optometrists. Shorter courses and lectures are otherwise given to other professions. The
craving for more education from occupational ergonomists and working life inspectors are high. But more
knowledge is needed. More research is needed. Networking and lecturing are two ways of spreading the
knowledge of visual ergonomics.
4. Voice ergonomics
An aspect of human interaction with the working environment that has not received much attention within the
area of ergonomics is about using the human voice as a working tool. Many people use their voices in their
normal working situation, especially people in education on various levels, but also officers, call centre staff
and others. This area, the so called voice ergonomics, has bearings on personal health as well as on the
quality of human communication. When a worker experiences voice problems a speech therapist is
sometimes consulted. A speech therapist can give good advice addressing medical aspects and individual
therapy. Sweden has internationally recognized researchers and clinicians in speech therapy, but they
normally have very limited experience from field work in working life.
Sweden has since several decades a great number of highly competent occupational ergonomists
mainly associated with the Swedish occupational health service. These ergonomists normally have good
contacts with enterprise management and are used to implement work environment changes. However, they
hardly have any knowledge about speech issues and acoustics. These issues have recently been put in
focus by a new updated provision on work load by the Swedish Work Environment Authority
(Arbetsmiljöverket, 2012a), where voice load also is addressed.
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Figure 2a Model of present situation. 2b Model of the anticipated network in the future.
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A prioritized goal of EHSS is to form a network for voice ergonomics, creating closer relations between
practitioners in physical ergonomics, speech therapists and acoustic experts, moving from the present
situation as presented in Figure 2a where the various professionals work in solitude, to the anticipated future
network illustrated in figure 2b. The aim of the intended network is to increase cooperation between these
professions to be able to address voice and acoustic problems with a holistic systems approach to create
acoustic environments for safe and efficient work. The goal also includes appropriate educational measures
for all stakeholders involved.
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5. Ergonomics design for all
Ergonomic design of products and environments affects human performance in everyday systems. Often the
design is done with a general thought that the user group is normal distributed adults between18-65 years
(the traditional working force). However, human physical and mental prerequisites vary between people and
also by age. Therefore, it is important to also accommodate the needs of small and big persons, persons
living with various disabilities, expectant mothers, elderly, adolescents and children in the design. People
with various disabilities can be for example wheel-chair users, blind people and people with dementia. But to
include all people in society when designing is not a simple task. Then we have to deal with extraordinary
ergonomics, or inclusive design, which means taking into consideration various human characteristics and
focusing on ergonomics for people that generally are excluded from common design guidelines.!
A framework that deals with ‘Design for All has been developed at Chalmers University of Technology
in Sweden, and tested twice in a University course on master level for design engineering students. The aim
of the framework is to identify what specific requirements different age groups and people with disabilities
generate in various contexts and how these requirements create conflicts and challenges when trying to
design for all. The framework consists of five parts:
1. A theoretical literature study of specific needs (physical and/or mental) associated with age and
disability of the chosen user groups (elderly, children, physical impairment, impaired vision, impaired
hearing etc.)
2. Observe the chosen everyday system (e.g. a public space or a workplace) to identify critical tasks to
be performed and what contextual problems/hinder there for correct performance within the system.
Perform unstructured interviews with people if appropriate.
3. Analyse the results from theory (specific needs for the different user groups) and practice (critical
tasks and contextual problems) and make a list of problems followed by requirements for each user
group.
4. Make a list of conflicts and contradictions between the requirements for the different user groups. Is
there anything preventing a critical situation where the difficulties for all user groups can be
supported?!
5. Decide on the most relevant and feasible improvement areas for the system so it will be improved
from a “design for all”-perspective.!
This framework has been used for example to study public spaces, more specifically local public
transport, self-service restaurants and grocery stores. These are examples of everyday systems that should
be accessible for everyone, i.e. all inhabitants of the society should be able to access functions here. The
specific user groups studied were people with visual impairment, wheel-chair users and elderly. A variety of
critical tasks and contextual problems were identified within these public spaces, but also a variety of design
solutions were found, some of these rather simple.
For instance, in Gothenburg today, 40 per cent of the busses and trams are not adapted to wheel-chair
bounded persons at all. Where there are solutions to board wheel-chairs, the access ramps are manual
(Figure 3) and an accompanying person is needed. This person needs to get a hook from the driver to fold
the ramp, or the driver needs to do it. This is very time consuming and the time-schedule will be ruptured.
Furthermore, there is too little space in the bus to fit an electric wheel-chair together with for example a
stroller. However, the students proposed good solutions in how people in wheelchairs could included in the
public transport system. They also showed how articles in grocery stores should be positioned to offer
everyone a chance to reach them, and how restaurants should be furnished to avoid conflicts between user
groups as wheelchair users and visually impaired people.
Proceedings 19th Triennial Congress of the IEA, Melbourne 9-14 August 2015
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Figure 3 Student project in Gothenburg city testing how busses are adapted for wheel-chairs. The ramp
needs to be fold manually and there is limited space for the wheel-chair inside the bus. The wheel-chair
driver needs to have an assistant or get help from the driver. The loading/un-loading procedure affects the
time schedule of the bus.
By using the framework, both theory and practice are used to analyse a system from a design for all
perspective in a more structured way, which has been successful in student projects. A prioritized goal of
EHSS is to spread the knowledge of inclusive design theory and methods among different stakeholders, in
academia as well as to practitioners to increase the possibilities to develop a more social and sustainable
society in Sweden.
6. Concluding remarks
EHSS has shouldered a leadership role in promoting HFE work in Sweden by identifying strategic focus
areas and key stakeholders. The work includes building strategic partnerships, like the visual ergonomics
network and the voice ergonomics network to further the HFE knowledge and application and ensure
sustained improvements in both research and practice.
For a relatively small organization as EHSS in small country as Sweden, it is not possible to cover all
areas within the vast scope of human factors and ergonomics, while maintaining high-quality. It is necessary
to choose appropriate focus areas. Today, it is mainly board members driving and participating in this work
but our efforts will only be successful in the long run if our individual members get increasingly involved.
The contribution of this paper is to show a strategy to develop and strengthen human factors and
ergonomics knowledge among stakeholders that can be formulated in the context of an individual society
within the IEA. This also opens up for other Societies to join us in our efforts and actively contribute to our
key areas as well as support us in other areas where we lack resources.
The EHSS' activities are one step towards broadening the knowledge and application of HFE in the
Nordic countries and to comprise new areas and domains of specialization. Specifically, this includes
increased awareness of the need to design society and workplaces for wider spectra of user groups. Visual
ergonomics, voice ergonomics and ergonomic design for all user groups, including children, disabled and
elderly are important areas to highlight for practitioners, product developers, researchers, teachers and
authorities to improve accessibility and the environment for all people, in order to increase safety, efficiency
and well-being.
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References
AFS 2012:2 om belastningsergonomi (In Swedish) (2012a).
Arbetsmiljöverket. (2012b). Kunskapsöversikt: Syn och belysning för äldre i arbetslivet (Vision and lighting
for the elderly work force).
Chapanis, A. (1996). Human factors in systems engineering. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
Dul, J., Bruder, R., Buckle, P., Carayon, P., Falzon, P., Marras, W. S., . . . van der Doelen, B. (2012). A
strategy for human factors/ergonomics: developing the discipline and profession. Ergonomics, 55(4),
377-395. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2012.661087
Hemphälä, H. (2014). How visual ergonomics interventions influence health and performance-with an
emphasis on non-computer work tasks. Lund University.
Long, J., Toomingas, A., Forsman, M., Glimne, S., Helland, M., Hemphälä, H., . . . Osterhaus, W. (2014). A
definition of visual ergonomics. Applied ergonomics, 45(126), 3e1264.
Mossink, J., & De Greef, M. (2002). Inventory of socioeconomic costs of work accidents. Luxembourg:
European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.
Nylén, P. (2012). Syn och belysning i arbetslivet (Vision and lighting for the working life). Stockholm: Prevent.
Chapter
Full-text available
This paper describes the results of the conceptual and practical strategy work performed by the Swedish Ergonomics and Human Factors Society (EHSS) today. The rationale of EHSS is to strengthen the quality of ergonomics/human factors knowledge and practice in Sweden and form a multidisciplinary platform across disciplines and professions for collaboration and for knowledge sharing. EHSS gathers about 350 members, representing different occupations in industry, academia and the public sector. Together, EHSS members hold knowledge and experience in physical, cognitive and organizational ergonomics and its application in working life and society.
Article
Full-text available
Unlabelled: Human factors/ergonomics (HFE) has great potential to contribute to the design of all kinds of systems with people (work systems, product/service systems), but faces challenges in the readiness of its market and in the supply of high-quality applications. HFE has a unique combination of three fundamental characteristics: (1) it takes a systems approach (2) it is design driven and (3) it focuses on two closely related outcomes: performance and well-being. In order to contribute to future system design, HFE must demonstrate its value more successfully to the main stakeholders of system design. HFE already has a strong value proposition (mainly well-being) and interactivity with the stakeholder group of 'system actors' (employees and product/service users). However, the value proposition (mainly performance) and relationships with the stakeholder groups of 'system experts' (experts fromtechnical and social sciences involved in system design), and 'system decision makers' (managers and other decision makers involved in system design, purchase, implementation and use), who have a strong power to influence system design, need to be developed. Therefore, the first main strategic direction is to strengthen the demand for high-quality HFE by increasing awareness among powerful stakeholders of the value of high-quality HFE by communicating with stakeholders, by building partnerships and by educating stakeholders. The second main strategic direction is to strengthen the application of high-quality HFE by promoting the education of HFE specialists, by ensuring high-quality standards of HFE applications and HFE specialists, and by promoting HFE research excellence at universities and other organisations. This strategy requires cooperation between the HFE community at large, consisting of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA), local (national and regional) HFE societies, and HFE specialists. We propose a joint world-wide HFE development plan, in which the IEA takes a leadership role. Practitioner summary: Human factors/ergonomics (HFE) has much to offer by addressing major business and societal challenges regarding work and product/service systems. HFE potential, however, is underexploited. This paper presents a strategy for the HFE community to strengthen demand and application of high-quality HFE, emphasising its key elements: systems approach, design driven, and performance and well-being goals.
Article
Introducción al campo de los factores humanos en la ingeniería de sistemas, dividida en los siguientes capítulos: 1. Introducción. 2. Sistemas e ingeniería de sistemas. 3. Estándares, códigos, especificaciones y otros productos de trabajo. 4. Métodos de factores humanos. 5. y 6. Cacterísticas humanas físicas y mentales. 7. Selección de personal y capacitación. 8. Requisitos de los sistemas. 9. Posdata.
Kunskapsöversikt: Syn och belysning för äldre i arbetslivet (Vision and lighting for the elderly work force)
  • Arbetsmiljöverket
Arbetsmiljöverket. (2012b). Kunskapsöversikt: Syn och belysning för äldre i arbetslivet (Vision and lighting for the elderly work force).
How visual ergonomics interventions influence health and performance-with an emphasis on non-computer work tasks
  • H Hemphälä
Hemphälä, H. (2014). How visual ergonomics interventions influence health and performance-with an emphasis on non-computer work tasks. Lund University.
A definition of visual ergonomics
  • J Long
  • A Toomingas
  • M Forsman
  • S Glimne
  • M Helland
  • H Hemphälä
  • . . Osterhaus
Long, J., Toomingas, A., Forsman, M., Glimne, S., Helland, M., Hemphälä, H.,... Osterhaus, W. (2014). A definition of visual ergonomics. Applied ergonomics, 45(126), 3e1264.
Inventory of socioeconomic costs of work accidents. Luxembourg: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work
  • J Mossink
  • M De Greef
Mossink, J., & De Greef, M. (2002). Inventory of socioeconomic costs of work accidents. Luxembourg: European Agency for Safety and Health at Work.
Syn och belysning i arbetslivet (Vision and lighting for the working life)
  • P Nylén
Nylén, P. (2012). Syn och belysning i arbetslivet (Vision and lighting for the working life). Stockholm: Prevent.
A strategy for human factors/ergonomics: developing the discipline and profession
  • J Dul
  • R Bruder
  • P Buckle
  • P Carayon
  • P Falzon
  • W S Marras
  • . . Van Der Doelen
Dul, J., Bruder, R., Buckle, P., Carayon, P., Falzon, P., Marras, W. S.,... van der Doelen, B. (2012). A strategy for human factors/ergonomics: developing the discipline and profession. Ergonomics, 55(4), 377-395. doi: 10.1080/00140139.2012.661087