Keynotes and Plenaries

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Rhona FlinRhona Flin, Robert Gordon University
Institute Lecture: Revealing human factors science through non-technical skills


Rhona Flin (PhD, FBPsS, FRSE, FRAeS, FRCSEd) is Professor of Industrial Psychology, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University and Emeritus Professor of Applied Psychology, University of Aberdeen, Scotland. Her work examines human performance in high risk industries, such as healthcare, aviation and the energy industries, with studies focusing on leadership, safety culture, team skills and cognitive skills, e.g. decision making under pressure. Current projects include product safety culture, managers’ safety leadership and non-technical skills in safety-critical tasks. Her books include Safety at the Sharp End: A Guide to Non-Technical Skills (2008, with O’Connor & Crichton) and Enhancing Surgical Performance: A Primer on Non-Technical Skills (2015, with Yule and Youngson, winner of a BMA Medical Book Award 2016).


Non-technical skills (NTS) are the cognitive and social skills that complement technical skills to achieve safe and efficient performance. The identification and training of these skills is well-established in aviation with Crew Resource Management (CRM) training and non-technical skills assessment now part of airlines’ safety management systems. In other safety-critical sectors, such as healthcare, this approach is beginning to be established with anaesthetists and surgeons for example, starting to implement non-technical skills training and considering methods of assessment. The focus on task behaviours is well received by practitioners and thus allows the role and relevance of the underpinning behavioural science to be revealed. In this lecture, I discuss whether NTS may be one way of introducing a human factors perspective to practitioner audiences, especially if the broader linkages to ergonomics, safety culture and accident analyses can be made more apparent.

Stephen BaoStephen Bao, Washington State Department of Labor and Industries
Donald Broadbent Lecture: Lessons learned about Carpal Tunnel Syndrome in workplaces


Stephen Bao is a certified professional ergonomist (CPE and CCPE) at Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. As a senior research ergonomist, he has performed numerous projects primarily in real workplaces to study relationships between workplace factors and musculoskeletal disorders, develop job assessment tools, and evaluate workplace ergonomics interventions. With an engineering background, Stephen promotes solutions that can be integrated in industrial processes and machine/product designs to enhance productivity and improve work efficiency. He has done many ergonomics consultations with a wide range of industries. As a seasoned instructor, Stephen has taught many targeted audiences including ergonomists, health and safety specialists, engineers, production workers, and university students. Stephen serves as an editor for Ergonomics and an associated editor for Ergonomics in Design.


Based on a National Academy of Sciences and Institute of Medicine review, NIOSH was recommended to fund researches to “… quantification of the relationship between exposures and outcomes.” In the early 2000s, NIOSH funded $12m for a number of Big Ergo studies to several US research institutions. Characteristics of these studies are: (1) large population, (2) prospective, (3) individual exposure quantification, (4) individual health outcome measures, (5) inclusions of organisational, psychosocial and biomechanical factors in workplaces, and (6) focus on low back pain or upper extremity disorders. After the completion of the first round of the projects conducted by these individual research institutions, a number of follow up NIOSH funded projects were also conducted to pool the data of those individual studies.

This talk will present the work on the research related to the work-related upper limb disorders. It will introduce the general design of these research projects, and the advantages and challenges of the methodologies used so that other researchers may learn from our lessons to make future studies more effective and efficient. This talk will also summarise some of the major findings on the relationships between workplace factors (including organisational, psychosocial and biomechanical factors) and work-related carpal tunnel syndrome. Future directions on work-related upper limb musculoskeletal disorders research and intervention strategies will be discussed.

Andrew ThatcherAndrew Thatcher, University of the Witwatersrand
Keynote: The role of ergonomics in creating complex, adaptive and resilient systems for sustainability


Professor Andrew Thatcher holds the Chair of Industrial/Organisational Psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg where he has worked since 1995. He chairs the “Human Factors and for Sustainable Development” Technical Committee of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) and is one of the editors of Ergonomics. Previously he was an Associate Editor for Behaviour & Information Technology. His research interests are concerned with building theoretical models that connect social and ecological ideas to support human factors and ergonomics work. This work looks at how complex adaptive system analysis might be used to understand sustainability in human factors and ergonomics systems. This work applies concepts such as system resilience and adaptability to understand how humans might facilitate or hinder sustainability and sustainable development. His empirical work looks at various aspects of ergonomics and sustainability and includes trying to understands the psychological factors in the adoption of sustainable technologies and determining the health and well-being of ‘green’ buildings for building occupants. He is the ergonomics specialist on the World Green Building Council’s technical committee on wellbeing, health and productivity in green buildings. He is currently President of the Ergonomics Society of South Africa.


Anthropogenic-led changes to our biosphere now threaten to disrupt human health and wellbeing and perhaps even our existence as a species. The principle aim of this talk is to demonstrate what human factors and ergonomics can learn from the study of how natural systems operate. I will demonstrate how a complex systems understanding is required to unpack problems, to identify solutions, and to select places in the system where interventions will have the greatest impact.

David WattsDavid Watts, CCD Design and Ergonomics
Plenary: The spreading influence of human factors in design…it’s just called something else


David Watts is Managing Director of CCD Design & Ergonomics. CCD is a leading human behaviour and design agency. It specialises in applying the science of human factors and ergonomics to the design process. CCD works across workspace design, wayfinding design, experience design as well as consulting on human factors problems.


Human factors & ergonomics have long held clear ground marked out around safety, health & human performance, especially in the workplace. For example, in our area of work in transport, ergonomists have well-established roles in projects designing control rooms, looking at maintenance, etc – essentially the jobs of the people working on the transport system. But as a discipline, we’ve had less to say about the customer or passenger environment and how services, products and spaces are designed to affect some of the softer aspects around experience of travel. Our work on High Speed 2 and other projects are examples of how ergonomics & human factors are starting to have a stronger influence on those aspects of design, especially at early, conceptual stages of projects. But what we’ve discovered is that it probably isn’t called, or understood as, ergonomics.

See David’s Q&A on design.

Jim McPartlin, RAF
Plenary: Safety culture in the Kabul area of operations


Jim McPartlin is a senior Air Traffic Control Officer in the Royal Air Force. He has been employed in a number of operational posts at home and overseas and is currently the Officer Commanding the RAF’s deployable Air Traffic Control capability. Jim has an MSc in Human Factors in Aviation with a specialisation in Safety Culture and provides Safety Culture assessment and development both within the RAF and on an independent basis.


In June 2016 I led a safety assurance team to Kabul, Afghanistan, to undertake a safety assessment following the crash of a Royal Air Force (RAF) Puma helicopter in October 2015 which resulted in the the tragic deaths of 5 NATO military personnel. The assessment uncovered some interesting points relating to safety culture which this case study aims to highlight. The views expressed are my personal opinion as a safety management professional and are not that of the RAF or Ministry of Defence.

The RAF in Kabul is operating as part of a multinational coalition of 28 nations. A number of these nations’ Air Forces have immature safety cultures and limited safety management systems. One of the aims of the assessment was to understand the differences in safety and reporting cultures in an attempt to identify how they can be brought together and developed in order to increase aviation safety and prevent further accidents. A specific area examined was how incidents and hazards are reported between the nations so that trends can be analysed and lessons learned. At first glance this might seem straight forward but when one considers that safety culture is a product of both organisational and national culture, it suddenly becomes very complex. Furthermore, achieving a safety culture is a process that can take many years, sometimes a generation, to develop.

As an example of the mix of national, and therefore safety cultures, a typical day in aviation around Kabul involves:

  • Afghan Air Traffic Controllers being trained and mentored by US civilian contractors operating in airspace owned by the fledgling Afghan Civil Aviation Authority. Certain facilities also have US military controllers operating in the same airspace.
  • Aircraft operating in close proximity to Kabul include national and international airlines, military aircraft from over 10 different nations, civilian aircraft operating under military contract and aircraft operating independently undertaking special military operations.
  • Safety policy is written by several different nations and organisations and is not always coherent. Incidents and hazards occur on a regular basis but are not always reported.

We mostly consider this type of safety investigation/assessment to take place in our normal place of work. Conducting such activity in a complex hostile environment presents its own difficulties and challenges. The complexities are further added to when we consider the amount of different parties involved, the language barrier, and the type of military operations being conducted in which it is sometimes difficult to gather safety critical information from.

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