Human factors: Design
This Key Topic contains links to four issues:
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.
More information on design
- Reducing error and influencing behaviour (HSG48)
Pages 20-26 contain a good summary of key design issues.
- Improving maintenance – a guide to reducing human error
Pages 46-47 discuss designing plant and equipment for maintenance.
- Human factors integration: Implementation in the onshore and offshore industries
Gives an overview of best practice on how to build human factors into design.
- Ergonomic principles in the design of work systems
Available from BSI Standards. A work system is defined as 'a combination of people and equipment, within a given space and environment, and the interactions between these components with a work organisation' (p10).
- Ergonomic design of control centres,,
Parts 1-7, ISO 11064. Available from BSI Standards. Covers design principles, control room arrangements and layout, workstations, displays, controls, interactions, temperature, lighting, acoustics, ventilation, and evaluation. Designers should be following this standard for new control rooms, and it can usefully be referred to for upgrades and modifications to existing ones especially where there are known problems.
- Process plant control desks utilizing human-computer interface:
a guide to design, operational and human interface issues. Engineering Equipment & Materials Users Association (EEMUA) Publication 201: 2002 available via EEMUA on 020 7628 7878 or email: email@example.com. A clear and practical guide for sites moving to DCS control and centralised control rooms.
- Alarm systems, a guide to design, management and procurement, Engineering Equipment & Materials Users Association Publication No 191
- Identifying and eliminating ergonomic risks offshore: A resource pack
The purpose of this resource pack is to provide an introduction to ergonomics for people who work offshore. It sets out to raise your awareness of some of the ergonomic problems in the offshore workplace; to explain the causes of ergonomic related accidents and injuries, and to provide some practical information to help reduce the risks. Includes PowerPoint presentations and checklists on a range of issues.
- Human-System Interface Design Review Guidelines (NUREG 0700)
The United States Nuclear Regulator (Nuclear Regulatory Commission) has developed a detailed technical guide to human-system interface design. This is a very detailed document and can be applied to all industry sectors.