Human factors can be defined as the science of people at work. It is mainly associated with understanding the capabilities of a human and then applying this to the design of equipment, tools, systems, and processes of work. Human factors use input from several disciplines, including engineers, designers, psychologists, and managers. In short, it is a mixture of engineering and psychology. The primary goals of human factors include enhancing safety, eliminating errors, enhancing comfort, and increasing the level of productivity.
Importance of Human Factors
Human factors are highly important because it helps in making work more efficient, effective, and safe. Organizations and industries that discover the importance of human factors will ensure that the machines and equipment are easy to use and safe to use for their workers. Human factors also help in allowing plant or equipment and procedure to be designed with the user in mind, understanding the human capabilities as well as limitations. The absence of human factors may mean equipment and machine are taxing for employees that can reduce the level of productivity and increase error rates along with the risk of injury, illness, and accidents.
If the procedures and instructions are not designed by keeping human capabilities in mind, employees may choose dangerous workarounds to complete the job, which could increase the number of incidents or accidents in the future. Human factors focus on getting the best out of human capabilities by understanding their weaknesses and strengths when designing equipment, machines, technology, and processes.
Human factors can increase safety, reduce risks, improve efficiency, manage errors, reduce accidents plus costs, provide a duty of care for employees, offer a positive return on investment, and many more benefits.
History of Human Factors
In the 19th and 20th centuries, time and motion engineers signaled the start of human factors as a science. It consists of pioneering work of Frederick Winslow Taylor and Frank ad Lillian Gilbreth. Frederick Winslow Taylor focused on productivity, for instance, dividing work into small parts like production line processes, whereas Frank and Lillian Gilbreth focused on finding the best way to do something, for instance, placing bricks closer to bricklayers making it easier and comfortable.
Human factors entered mainstream safety management following the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island (TMI). The President’s Commission into Three Mile Island found the reason to be “people-related issues and not an equipment problem.” Since hardware and software become more reliable, the contribution of humans to the accident had become ever more apparent. The science of Human Factors entered mainstream safety management that allows the human element as well as the technology to be addressed.
How To Use Human Factors in Operations?
When it comes to improving human factors, it is important to learn about it. A significant step to apply human factors is increasing an understanding of the work or operation required. Methods like conducting a work-task analysis, observing work being done, or talking to the people doing the work are the best way to understand the work processes required. Before this, it is also important to consider a graded approach based on the involvement of risks.