Introduction to Human Factors and Ergonomics

By Vivek Kant, Ph.D.   |   IIT Bombay
Learners enrolled: 2467

Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) is central to supporting the design, evaluation, operation and maintenance of human-centric systems in a variety of disciplines ranging from and not limited to design, engineering and management. As a realm of knowledge, HFE transcends disciplinary boundaries. However, in its current practice in India, HFE has remained highly fractured in academic settings. HFE’s multifaceted nature is displayed in myriad instances in various silos of individual disciplines of design, engineering, psychology and physiology. The fractured state of HFE is also partly due to the manner in which it is institutionalized in various academic disciplines in India.
Typically, HFE thrives under the banner of “applied psychology” in psychology departments, where it is studied as a subset of behavior; as “ergonomics” in physiology departments where the primary insights are from physiological and physical basis of the body; and as “human factors engineering” in industrial and systems engineering departments. While the list continues, a more urgent need is to characterize HFE succinctly as a holistic transdisciplinary sector of knowledge to support design and innovation in human centric systems. The aim of this course is to provide such a comprehensive transdisciplinary and holistic understanding and basic sensitivity towards HFE. This course will have a practical and positive effect on the manner in which HFE is engaged by professional sectors in India.
The course is divided into seven modules. Module 1 provides a generic set of ideas that forms a basis for addressing HFE. Module 2 addresses the cognitive basis of HFE and module 3 the physical and physiological basis of HFE. In module 4, we shift our focus towards the physical environment of human performance as well as the design of work spaces. In Module 5, we take a step towards understanding the sociocultural environment and organizational dimension of HFE. In module 6, we comprehended the challenges associated with large scale systems. Finally, we conclude module 7 with ways in which HFE can be successfully integrated in organizations. Thus, this course will provide a holistic basis for engaging HFE and using it for informing designers, engineers and managers alike. In turn, enabling a more humane and sensitive practice of human-centered systems for promoting well-being, productivity and overall systems performance.
A central aspect of this course is its transdisciplinary nature and an explicit avowal towards developing a holistic viewpoint for the comprehensive study of HFE. The various modules of this course highlights the dimensions of HFE that will be useful for a broader set of audience comprising of Designers, Engineers, Managers, Psychologists, Sociologists, and other allied health sectors, in order to enable a humane approach to human-centric systems. 

Course Status : Upcoming
Course Type : Elective
Duration : Self Paced
Category :
  • Design Engineering
Level : Undergraduate

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Course layout

Module 1

Key theme(s): Designing for people, technologies, organizations and environments as systems

Introduction to the various aspects of HFE
  • HFE in relation to technology
  • Human Knowing and Acting
  • Teamwork and Organizational dimension
  • Large-scale systems (safety and accidents)
  • Background of HFE
  • Meaning of Ergonomics
  • Why is it Human Factors and Ergonomics?
  • Breadth and scope of HFE

Brief History of HFE
  • Earlier origins of human scale in everyday contexts
  • Modern times and the advent of the factory system
  • Brief understanding of human relations and industrial psychology
  • World War II and human operators
  • Nuclear power and the operator
  • Product Ergonomics, Cognitive Systems Engineering and beyond
  • Next steps in HFE?
What constitutes essential aspects of HFE?
  • Systems approach
  • Design-driven
  • Performance and well-being (capabilities and limitations)
  • Need to link human performance + macro variables (organizational background) + systems design
  • Humans as participants in a co-design process
Example: HFE in Transportation

Module 2

Key theme: Human Knowing in technological contexts
  • Vision and Perception
  • Cognition 
  • Information processing approach
  • Attention and memory
  • Lapses in attention and memory, Types of memory
  • Human decision making

Module 3

Key theme: Human Acting in technological contexts

  • Challenges of different demographics
  • Anthropometrics
  • How does anthropometrics help in design?
  • Body and activity systems
  • Lifting, grasping, pushing and pulling
  • Occupational challenges and muscoskeletal disorders
  • Workplace injuries

Module 4

Key theme: The physical context of human knowing and acting

  • Varieties of  work environments
  • Issues related to lighting and sound
  • HFE outside in everyday world
  • Everyday environment and risks 
  • Social environment
  • Safety-critical environments
  • Work Space design based on HFE principles 

Module 5

Key theme: The sociocultural context of HFE (Organizational dimension)

  • Organizational culture 
  • Group and teams dynamics  
  • Personality and management styles
  • Leadership styles
  • Job Characteristics and design

Module 6

Key theme: HFE and large scale systems (safety, risk and accidents)

  • HFE and large scale systems
  • Complexity and systems: dynamism, complexity, uncertainty
  • Uncertainty as a fundamental challenge in human performance; coping with the unexpected
  • Dynamic Challenges in large-scale systems not typically present in simple systems
  • Challenges of human behavior in large scale systems, complex interlinkages with technology.
  • Human errors in complex systems
  • Moving beyond human error: beyond the blame game?
  • HFE in relation to safety, risks and accidents

Module 7

Key theme:  HFE integration

  • Recap of the last 6 modules: Cognitive; Physical (and physiological); Organizational 
  • HFE integration with design, systems and management – the road ahead
  • Step-by-step integration
  • Worker involvement
  • Catering to operators, managers and end users
  • Building an organizational culture for Human factors improvement
  • Understanding work from a human perspective
  • Systems approach + Design-driven + Performance and well-being
  • Reinforcing key themes from each session of the course

Books and references

Module 1:

Bridger, R. (2017). Introduction to Human Factors and Ergonomics (4th ed.). Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Casey, S. M. (1998). Set phasers on stun. Santa Barbara, CA: Aegean.
Casey, S. M. (2006). The atomic chef: And other true tales of design, technology, and human error. CA: Aegean.
Dempsey, P. G., Wogalter, M. S., & Hancock, P. A. (2000). What's in a name? Using terms from definitions to examine the fundamental foundation of human factors and ergonomics science. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomics Science, 1(1), 3-10.
Dul, J., & Weerdmeester, B. (2003). Ergonomics for beginners: a quick reference guide. FL: CRC press.
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.
Licht, D. M., Polzella, D. J., & Boff, K. (1989). Human Factors, Ergonomics, and Human Factors Engineering: An Analysis of Definitions. CSERIAC-89-01. Wright Patterson AFB, Dayton, OH: CSERIAC.
Norman, D. (2008, May 09). Don Norman: The Design of Future Things. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQmwEjL6K1U&feature=youtu.be
Stramler, J. H. (1993). The Dictionary for Human Factors/Ergnomics.  Boca Raton, LA: CRC Press.
Hodgman, J. (2012, March). Design explained. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/john_hodgman_design_explained?language=en#t-36880
Hendrick, H. W. (1996, October). The ergonomics of economics is the economics of ergonomics. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting(Vol. 40, No. 1, pp. 1-10). Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications. http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=
Sanders, M. S. & McCormick, E. J. (1993). Human factors in engineering and design (7th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.
Stone, N. J., Chaparro, A., Keebler, J. R., Chaparro, B. S., & McConnell, D. S. (2017). Introduction to Human Factors: Applying Psychology to Design (1st ed.). Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Wickens, C. D., Lee, J. D., Liu Y, & Becker, S. E. G. (2003). Introduction to Human Factors Engineering (2nd Edition). Upper Saddle River, NJ, USA: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Remington, Roger & Boehm-Davis, Deborah & Folk, Charles. (2012). Introduction to Humans in Engineered Systems. Hoboken, NJ, US: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.  

Historical Snippets:
  1. Perkins, J.S., Gilbreth, L.M., Barnes, R.M.(1945). The original films of Frank B. Gilbreth. Prelinger Archives (www.prelinger.com). Accessed from:https://archive.org/details/0809_Original_Films_of_Frank_B_Gilbreth_02_12_34_00
  2. AT&T(1981). Designing For People, 1981 - AT&T Archives - Human Factors Research. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIllRMkvkp0

Other Training Resources on the Internet:
  1. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Human Factors Awareness Course: http://www.hf.faa.gov/Webtraining/index.htm
  2. National Aeronautics and Space Administration: http://human-factors.arc.nasa.gov/web/humanfactors101/lessons.html


Module 2:

Atkinson, R. C., & Shiffrin, R. M. (1968). Human memory: A proposed system and its control processes. In K. W. Spence & J. T. Spence (Eds.), The psychology of learning and motivation (Vol. 2). NY, US: Academic Press.
Best, J. B. (1999).Cognitive psychology (5th ed.).Hoboken, NJ, US: Brooks/Cole Wadsworth.
Esgate, A., D. Groome, K. Baker, D. Heathcote, R. Kemp, M. Maguire, &D. Reed (2005).An Introduction to Applied Cognitive Psychology. New York, US:Psychology Press, Taylor & Francis.
FAA TV. (2015, Sep 2). Human Factors: Processing Information. https://www.faa.gov/tv/?mediaId=1153
Galotti, J. M. (2014). Cognitive Psychology In and Out of the Laboratory (5th ed.).Thousand Oaks , CA, US:   Sage Publications, Inc.
Grant, E., Stevens, N., and Salmon, P. (2016). Why the 'Miracle on the Hudson' in the new movie Sully was no crash landing. Retrieved, Retrieved: November, 15, 2018  https://theconversation.com/amp/why-the-miracle-on-the-hudson-in-the-new-movie-sully-was-no-crash-landing-64748.
Lotto, B. (2017, May 1). Reality is not what it seems: the science behind why optical illusions mess with our minds. Wired.https://www.wired.co.uk/article/optical-illusions-science-perception
Skiles, J. (2016). Wisconsin Public Television University Place: Miracle on the Hudson. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qr5SxnDom7g
Tidwell, J. (2010). Designing Interfaces: Patterns for Effective Interaction Design (2nd ed.). O’Reilly Media.
Wickens, C. D. & Hollands, J. G. (1999). Engineering Psychology and Human Performance (3rd Ed). NJ, US: Prentice Hall.
Ware, C. (2012). Information visualization: perception for design. Elsevier.
Ware, C. (2003). Design as applied perception. In Caroll , J.M. (ed.). HCI Models, Theories and Frameworks: Toward a Multidisciplinary Science. Morgan Kaufman Publishers: San Francisco (USA). Chapter 2.


Module 3:

Chaffin, D. B., Andersson, G. B. J., & Martin, B. J. (2006). Occupational biomechanics (4th ed.). New York: Wiley-Intersciences.
Chakrabarti, D. (1997). Indian anthropometric dimensions for ergonomic design practice. Ahmedabad: National Institute of Design.
Dempsey, P. G. (1998). A critical review of biomechanical, epidemiological, physiological and psychophysical criteria for designing manual materials handling tasks. Ergonomics, 41(1), 73-88.
Grandjean, E. (2002). Ergonomics in computerized offices. FL:CRC Press.
Grandjean, E., & Kroemer, K. H. (1997). Fitting the task to the human: a textbook of occupational ergonomics. FL: CRC press.
Kroemer, K. H. (2001). Office Ergonomics. FL: CRC Press.
Mital, A. (2017). Guide to manual materials handling. FL: CRC Press.
NIOSH. (2007). Ergonomic Guidelines for Manual Material Handling. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2007-131. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2007-131/pdfs/2007-131.pdf
NIOSH (2013, Jul). NIOSH Anthropometric Data and ISO Digital Headforms. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ek6aJ8D5xsg
NIOSH (2016, Mar). Mechanical arm effects on portable grinder vibrations. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MCiuphGW8Eo
NIOSH(2016, May). Practical Demonstrations of Ergonomic Principles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ENSb6BsM_q8
Pheasant, S., & Haslegrave C. M. (2005). Bodyspace: Anthropometry, Ergonomics and the Design of Work (3rd ed.). Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Panero, J., & Zelnik, M. (1979). Human dimension & interior space: a source book of design reference standards. New York: Watson-Guptill.


Module 4:

So, A. T., & Leung, L. M. (1998). Indoor lighting design incorporating human psychology. Architectural Science Review, 41(3), 113-124.
Dreyfuss, H., & Dreyfuss, H. (1967). The measure of man: human factors in design. New York: Whitney Library of Design.
Hedge, A. (2016). Ergonomic workplace design for health, wellness, and productivity. CRC Press.
Hendrick,   H.W.,   (1997) Macroergonomics:   a   proposed   approach   for   use   with anthropotechnology  and  ergonomic  work  analysis  in  effecting technology transfer. Travail Humain, 60 (3), 255–272.
Kanawaty, G. (Ed.). (1992). Introduction to work study. International Labour Organization.
Kopec, D. A. (2006). Environmental psychology for design. New York: Fairchild.
NIOSH. (2014). Buy Quiet. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2014-130. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/video/2014-130/
NIOSH. (2014). NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluations: Sampling for Exposures. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2014-118.https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/video/2014-118/
NIOSH. (2018). Designing Safe Mobile Equipment Access Areas.https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/content/humanfactorsandergonomics/design/ingress_egress.html
Nussbaumer, L. L. (2018). Human factors in the built environment. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.
Pheasant, S. (2003). Bodyspace: anthropometry, ergonomics and the design of work: anthropometry, ergonomics and the design of work. CRC Press. 2ndEdition.


Module 5:

Arnold, J., & Randall, R. (2010). Work Psychology: Understanding human behavior in the workplace (5th ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.
Dul, J., & Weerdmeester, B. (2003). Ergonomics for beginners: a quick reference guide. FL: CRC press. Chapter 5.
Hendrick, H.W., Kleiner, B.M. (Eds.), 2002. Macroergonomics: Theory, methods and applications. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Publishers, Mahwah, New Jersey.
Hersey, P., Blanchard, K. H., & Johnson, D. E. (2007). Management of organizational behavior (Vol. 9). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice hall.
Kinicki, A., & Kreitner, R. (2003). Organizational behavior: Key concepts, skills & best practices. McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Kotzé, M. & Steyn, L. (2013) The role of psychological factors in workplace safety, Ergonomics, 56:12, 1928-1939, DOI: 10.1080/00140139.2013.851282
Johnsen, S. O., Kilskar, S. S., & Fossum, K. R. (2017). Missing focus on Human Factors – organizational and cognitive ergonomics – in the safety management for the petroleum industry. Proceedings of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, Part O: Journal of Risk and Reliability, 231(4), 400–410.https://doi.org/10.1177/1748006X17698066
Waterson, P., Robertson, M. M., Carayon, P., Hoonakker, P., Holden, R., Hettinger, L., … Waterson, P. (2014). Macroergonomics and Sociotechnical Methods Current and Future Directions. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 58(1), 1536–1540.https://doi.org/10.1177/1541931214581320
NIOSH. (2003). Working with Stress. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2003-114d. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/video/stress1.html
NIOSH.(2004). Violence on the job. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 2004-100d. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/video/violence.html
Rae, A. (2008). Organizational Behavior. India: Pearson Education India. 


Module 6:

Amalberti, R., 2006. Optimum system safety and optimum system resilience: agonist or  antagonists  concepts? In:  Hollnagel,  E.,  Woods,  D.D.,  Leveson,  N. (Eds.), Resilience  Engineering:  Concepts  and  Precepts.  Ashgate,  Aldershot,  UK,  pp.  238-256.
Carayon,  P.,  2006.  Human  factors  of  complex  sociotechnical  systems.  Applied Ergonomics, 37 (4), 525-535.
Casey, S. M. (2006). The atomic chef: And other true tales of design, technology, and human error. CA: Aegean.
Clegg, C.W., 2000. Sociotechnical principles for system design. Applied Ergonomics, 31 (5), 463-477.
Dekker, S. (2016). Just culture: Balancing safety and accountability. FL: CRC Press.
Dekker, S. (2018). Just culture: restoring trust and accountability in your organization. FL: CRC Press.
Park, M. & Jun, G. Two Contrasting Views of the South Korea Ferry Accident. https://vimeo.com/122851457
Jun, G. (2017). SystemsThinking - A new direction in Healthcare Incident Investigation. https://vimeo.com/234920328
NIOSH (2015, Jan). Youth@Work—Talking Safety Curriculum for South Carolina. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2015-155.https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/talkingsafety/states/SC/2015-155/
Reason, J. (1995). Understanding adverse events: human factors. BMJ Quality & Safety, 4(2), 80-89.
Reason, J. (1990). Human error. UK: Cambridge university press.
Woods, D. D., Dekker, S., Cook, R., Johannesen, L., & Sarter, N. (2017). Behind human error. FL:CRC Press.


Module 7:

Lehto, M., and Buck, J., Eds. (2007). Introduction to Human Factors and Ergonomics for Engineers. Boca Raton, FL:CRC Press.
Booher, H. R. (2003). Handbook of human systems integration(Vol. 23). John Wiley & Sons.
Booher, H. R. (2012). MANPRINT: An approach to systems integration. Springer Science & Business Media.
Chapanis, A. (1996). Human factors in systems engineering. New York: Wiley.
Cullen, L. (2007). Human factors integration–Bridging the gap between system designers and end-users: A case study. Safety Science, 45(5), 621-629.
Doherty, E., O’Keeffe, D., & Traynor, O. (2011). Developing a human factors and patient safety programme at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. the surgeon, 9, S38-S39.
Hendrick, H. W. (1991). Ergonomics in organizational design and management, Ergonomics, 34 (6), 743-756, DOI: 10.1080/00140139108967348
National Research Council. (2007). Human-system integration in the system development process: A new look. National Academies Press.
NIOSH. (2013, Nov). Simple Steps for Creating an Organizational Culture of Health. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2013-159.https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/video/2013-159/
NIOSH. (2013, Aug). Health Hazard Evaluation Program: Helping to Eliminate Workplace Health Hazards Video. DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 2013-154. https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/video/2013-154/
O'Hara, J. M., Higgins, J. C., Fleger, S. A., & Pieringer, P. A. (2012). Human factors engineering program review model. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Nuclear Regulatory Research, Division of Risk Analysis.
Stanton, N., Hedge, A., Brookhuis, K., & Salas, E. (Eds.). (2004). Handbook of human factors and ergonomics methods. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
Wilson, J. R. & Corlett, E. N. (Eds.) (2005). Evaluation of human work: A practical ergonomics methodology (3rd ed.). Philadelphia: Taylor & Francis.



Instructor bio

Vivek Kant, Ph.D.

IIT Bombay
Vivek Kant is currently employed as an Assistant Professor at the Industrial Design Centre (IDC School of Design), Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IDC, IITB). He is cross-trained in both engineering and cognitive/behavioral sciences. His research interests are human factors, systems design, human computer interaction, history and philosophy of engineering, and sociotechnical systems.

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