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Human factors: Design

Why is design important?

The design of control rooms, plant and equipment can have a large impact on human performance. Designing tasks, equipment and work stations to suit the user can reduce human error, accidents and ill-health. Failure to observe ergonomic principles can have serious consequences for individuals and for the whole organisation. Effective use of ergonomics will make work safer, healthier and more productive.

The earlier that consideration is given to human factors and ergonomics in the design process, the better the results are likely to be. However, it’s important to use human factors and ergonomics expertise appropriately by involving people with knowledge of the working processes involved and the end user. For that reason, user involvement is key to designing operable and maintainable plant and systems.

Poor design contributes to work-related ill-health and has been found to be a root cause of accidents including major accidents e.g. Texas City, Herald of Free Enterprise and Ladbroke Grove.

The application of human factors to the design and development of systems and services is often called Human Factors Engineering or Human Factors Integration. Note that this approach has been developed in relation to large projects e.g. for defence, rail and similar applications, and that a wider view of human factors may need to be taken for more conventional design.

Key principles in design

  • Equipment should be designed in accordance with key ergonomics standards including EN614 Parts 1 and 2.
  • Control rooms should be designed in accordance with key ergonomics standards including EN11064, EEMUA 191 and EEMUA 201.
  • Users should be involved in the design process. This should include different types of users including operatives, maintenance and systems support personnel.
  • Consideration should be given to operator characteristics including body size, strength and mental capability.
  • Plant and processes should be designed for operability and maintainability and other elements of the life cycle should not be neglected e.g. decommissioning.
  • Consideration should be given to all foreseeable operating conditions including upsets and emergencies.
  • Consideration should be given to the interface between the end user and the system.

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