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Tuesday 25th April, 11:30, Session 3

Design, Build and Operation of Infrastructure Projects: what should the client specify?
Claire Dickinson, HM Principal Inspector Of Railways, Office of Rail & Road (ORR)

What is the background to the discussion? Enlightened major infrastructure projects call on Principal Contractors and Principal Designers to build human factors considerations into their tenders.  However, these specifications are not written by HF Specialists, they are unclear on what and how E/HF can make a positive contribution to such projects and what competence requirements should be sought.  As the professional body, the CIEHF website is silent and offers no advice or steer on these matters.

What is the purpose of your discussion? To facilitate a discussion that develops a consensus on what a client could specify when developing an invitation to tender document for the construction of major infrastructure projects with the intention of using this in preparing a web-page for the CIEHF website.

Who is your intended audience? Practitioners that sell their services to major infrastructure clients, business development officers for CIEHF consultancies, those within a university setting with a business development  role.

What key skills, tools or knowledge do you want your participants to take away? Be participative to a lively discussion that codifies the various ways E/HF can make a beneficial input to the design, build, commissioning  and later operation of infrastructure. This discussion would be a way of harnessing members expertise and enable CIEHF to promote the discipline to non-ergonomists. The resultant web-page would serve to promote E/HF to a specific group that need advice.

Wednesday 26th April, 12:00, Session 3

Managing common health problems in the workplace
Dr Jenny Lunt, J Lunt Associates; Prof Kim Burton, University of Huddersfield

What is the background to the discussion? Common health problems (musculoskeletal, mental health, and stress complaints) are responsible for the greater proportion of of sickness absence and long-term disability. Their incidence and prevalence rates have remained virtually unchanged despite considerable scientific and professional attention, which throws into question the conventional hazard-risk-control model. Underlying dose-response assumptions do not readily translate to CHPs, and their subjective and ubiquitous nature significantly undermines the potential for reduction through risk control. What this means in practice is that current health and safety regulation and guidance, although useful for their specific purposes, are not sufficient for managing the workplace consequences of CHPs. What is needed is a rethink.

In a project for HSE[1], we proposed a new conceptual model based on biopsychosocial principles. CHPs are recognised as being characterised by symptoms rather than disease or objective injury. In the workplace these symptoms may be work-relevant – they may be more pronounced at work or work may be compromised by the symptoms. The conceptual model spans three key areas: Good work; Good Jobs; Supportive Workplaces. Good work stems mostly from actions at the socio-political level through enabling legislation and suitable policy frameworks. Work that is both ‘good’ and safe has become an expected minimum standard in modern societies, but, although necessary, this approach is not sufficient to ensure the health and wellbeing of workers.  To do so requires additional interventions focused on helping line managers, and senior management, to provide Good Jobs for when people are well, and Supportive Workplaces for when they are ill or injured. The core principle is that a Good Job will reduce the likelihood that symptoms of CHPs will be expressed at work, while a Supportive Workplace will enable those who are struggling with health at work to more readily maintain work participation. However, if the workplace is to help, it needs tools.

The Health ↔ Work Toolbox proposed in the HSE report aims to reduce the workplace impact of CHPs by focusing on tackling work-relevant symptoms. It supplements current approaches by occupying the zone between primary prevention and healthcare. The Toolbox provides a set of evidence-informed principles and processes (knowledge + tools), comprising a proactive element aimed at empowering line managers to create good jobs, and a ‘just in time’ responsive element for supporting individuals struggling with a work-relevant health problem. The key intention is helping people with common health problems to maintain work participation. End-user feedback on the prototype was mostly positive.

What is the purpose of your discussion? The facilitated discussion will be around the potential implications of this piece of research for the world of ergonomics and human factors, with a focus on the role that the discipline can have for implementing and sustaining good jobs and supportive workplaces as way of reducing avoidable sickness absence.

Who is your intended audience? Professionals in the field of ergonomists/human factors; health and safety professionals; work/workplace designers; occupational psychologists; managers; occupational health practitioners.

What key skills, tools or knowledge do you want your participants to take away?Participants will gain a fresh evidence-informed perspective on the health-work interface, and contribute to developing the crucial role that ergonomics/human factors has to play in reducing avoidable sickness absence via the management of CHPs in the workplace. Participants will also gain practical insights into how to bring about much needed improvements in this underdeveloped aspect of health at work.

Wednesday 26th April, 15:30, Session 3

Mental Health in the Cockpit: Psychiatric Assessment is not the Answer
Andrew Taylor, The University of South Wales

The events of 24 March 2015 were shocking and, in terms of crash causes, extremely rare; the Germanwings pilot simultaneously committed suicide and mass murder. The actions or inactions of pilots are the most common cause of commercial aviation accidents, but normally in the guise of human error. Andreas Lubitz had a known history of mental health illness, but this is a widely misunderstood and extremely complicated subject.  Many believe that a person suffering from a mental health disorder is suffering from depression and is both permanently miserable and suicidal. In fact, there are several categories of mental health disorders, from depression through to phobias and OCD, each varying greatly in their intensity for each individual affected. The Germanwings tragedy was an extreme case, but the attention it gained highlighted a potential threat to aviation safety and raised enough concern within the industry to initiate discussion on the subject. This has led to proposals by EASA to introduce enhanced psychiatric and psychological assessment of those seeking an initial and renewal class 1 medical certificate. A survey of 121 people identified the mental health of pilots as being second only to terrorism as a concern regarding flight safety and 52.9% of respondents felt that a full psychiatric evaluation of a pilot should take place during their medical renewal. Problems with EASA’s proposals, have however been highlighted by prominent aviation psychologists, suggesting there would be difficulties in identifying what a ‘normal’ psychological profile for a pilot would be, that up to half of all cases would be missed and errors in results could mean pilots unfairly losing their jobs. Furthermore, mental health issues can strike anyone at any time and in a very short space of time. Thus it is suggested here, that rather than invasive and potentially ineffective psychiatric assessments, a positive industry culture is needed, where pilots feeling stress, low mood or anxiety can feel confident of seeking help and support, without fear of reprisal or losing their job and the industry and its passengers can feel secure in the knowledge that the pilots in the cockpit are in good physical and mental health.

Thursday 27th April, 11:30, Session 1

Interruptions: implications for systems design across industries
Dr. Simon Walne, Dr. Simone Borsci, Prof. Peter Buckle – Imperial College London

What is the background to the discussion? Interest in interruptions has grown considerably in recent years, as researchers in a number of domains (e.g. healthcare, aviation, HCI) have raised concerns about their potential deleterious effects on work safety or efficiency. Interruptions might result in individuals forgetting to resume a task, or resuming the task at the wrong point. The latter could lead to the repeating or omitting of a task-step, with potentially serious consequences (e.g. a nurse might forget to administer medications to a patient – or they might accidentally administer them more than once).

Speaking more generally, handling interruptions might require individuals to multitask, creating additional cognitive (and other) demands e.g. relating to the need to prioritise and to allocate time and attention appropriately. Such demands might create stress, especially for individuals working in safety critical industries, where the cost of errors can be severe. The need to frequently switch among different activities might also compromise productivity (compared to when tasks are performed serially, one at a time) since this requires individuals to recall the context and procedural rules associated with a task multiple times.

While there is now a large body of research on interruptions, few, if any, studies have systematically considered the implications of these events for design across multiple domains/ industries.

What is the purpose of your discussion?  To discuss the implications of interruptions for design, and to share knowledge about this from different industries. (The organisers work primarily in healthcare, but we will recruit 2 or 3 additional speakers from other industries, to share knowledge.)

Who is your intended audience? Anyone interested in interruptions and/ or how systems might be designed to help people to reduce, or to better manage, these events.

What key skills, tools or knowledge do you want your participants to take away? Attendees will leave the session with new ideas regarding how design might be used to avoid or reduce interruptions, or mitigate their potential negative effects.

What activities will you use to engage your participants and help them learn? Each of the presenters will discuss their own personal experience of interruptions. They will describe the nature of these events, in their domain(s), and consider their (potential) implications. They will end by discussing how design might help to reduce interruptions, or to better support workers in managing them.

After all of the presenters have spoken, the session will end with a brief discussion of what has been learned – and how researchers from different domains might work together in the future to improve ‘design for interruption’. (The audience will be encouraged to contribute throughout the discussion.)

Thursday 27th April, 11:30, Session 3

Encouraging cross-pollination between Human Factors /Ergonomics academics and industry practitioners
Robin Ellis, RED Design Ergonomics

What is the background to the discussion? Human Factors Ergonomics (HFE) is a discipline that is able to generate research questions and context of inquiry that are academically meritorious. Furthermore, these principles and practices are applied to real world contexts by industry practitioners. Despite this there can be a disconnect between the academic and industry community in how they work and operate. Such disconnect limits cross-pollination of learning and experiences from each group that can help benefit the discipline as a whole.

Although evidence of collaboration is seen, see Shorrock and Williams (2016) as an example, there seems to be little progress in producing a common platform that can allow each to interact and share knowledge easily. Such a platform may be in the form of an online resource to share information or a more physical outlet for collaboration.

The discussion will aim to devise pragmatic strategies that can be implemented to close this disconnect and progress the discipline of HFE through reciprocal relationships between academics and practitioners. The discussion will use a structured debate across three key themes:

  • What is the current state of collaboration and/or sharing of knowledge
  • What promotes and inhibits collaboration and/or sharing of knowledge
  • How can we improve collaboration and/or sharing of knowledge

The discussion will be highly participatory and those attending will be encouraged to contribute their own experiences as case studies in the area. For example, we will compare and contrast approaches to research across key factors such as number of participants and approaches to analysis of data.

The discussion will lead to opportunities to develop strategies and platforms that will help the CIEHF foster knowledge transfer and collaboration between HFE academic and industry practitioners. A report will be written detailing the discussion session along with formalised recommendation. Prior to the discussion, a questionnaire survey will be circulated covering the key themes above to provide prompts for the discussion session.

What is the purpose of your discussion? By attending participants will be able to share experience and devise strategies to engage with each other in relationships of reciprocal benefit.

Who is your intended audience? The discussion will appeal to those who work in academia and those who work in industry. The discussion will allow each participant to see the ‘world’ the other operates in and leverage opportunities for collaboration and knowledge transfer through formal and informal mechanisms.

What key skills, tools or knowledge do you want your participants to take away?The discussion will begin with a presentation by the conveners that will frame the discussion through contrasting academia and industry. Examples of this are included in table 1. A more detailed list will be collated prior to the event.

Table 1. Contrast between academia and industry in elements of a HFE study

Area of HFE project Focus for academia Focus for industry
Purpose of the study/user testing Explore or test a hypothesis Answer a critical question for client
Number of participants Size determined to ensure scientifically valid (e.g. a powered sample or derived from qualitative research process). As few as possible as there is a need to make the study as efficient in terms of cost and time
Analysis of data/outputs Statistical analysis or detailed qualitative analysis carried out against a known procedure. Results theories against existing literature. Statistical analysis would not be valid with the number of participants. General findings of acceptability and areas, which require improvement, are given. Recommendations made

By the end of the discussion participants will be better able to:

  • Understand the current state of collaboration and/or sharing of knowledge
  • Foster formal and informal strategies for collaboration and/or sharing of knowledge
  • Contribute to new approaches to aid collaboration and/or sharing of knowledge

References: Shorrock, S., Williams, C. (2016). Human Factors and Ergonomics in Practice. CRC Press.

[1]  Kendall N, Burton K, Lunt J, Mellor N, Daniels K. Developing an intervention toolbox for common health problems in the workplace (RR 1053). HSE Books, 2016

Date & place

25 - 27 April 2017
Staverton Estate, Daventry, Northamptonshire

Organised by


Human Applications
Osmond Ergonomics
Greenstreet Berman
K Sharp
Towergate Insurance
Scandinavian Business Seating
Want to sponsor this event?
Contact Adam Potter at Redactive Media on 0207 880 7555 or email adam.potter@redactive.co.uk.