We’re a team of human factors engineers and safety professionals drawing on our extensive education and training – as well as both academic research and industry experience – to understand human behavior and its limitations.
“The idea that a person is at fault when something goes wrong is deeply entrenched in society. That’s why we blame others and even ourselves.”
Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things
What, exactly, is human factors?
Here’s the textbook answer, from Human Factors in Engineering and Design, by Mark S. Sanders and Ernest J. McCormick: “The approach of human factors is the systematic application of relevant information about human capabilities, limitations, characteristics, behavior, and motivation to the design of things and procedures people use and the environments in which they use them.”
It’s a combination of things, really.
Human factors engineering pairs the traditional engineering disciplines – mechanical and safety engineering, accident reconstruction, et al. – with the science of human behavior, such as perception, learning and memory, cognition, decision making, response selection and execution, and anthropometrics. Its ultimate goal? Safety and reliability within the entire system.
And it’s been around for a while now.
A formally recognized discipline since the early ’50s, human factors evolved a decade earlier out of the failure of traditional accident reconstructionists – who lacked training in human behavior sciences – and the success of interdisciplinary teams of engineers, physicists, and cognitive psychologists in determining the underlying root causes of a wide array of accidents.
The science of human factors engineering has since expanded beyond the reactive methodology of accident reconstruction to include a more proactive approach. Ultimately, it aims to complement traditional engineering, design, and safety processes with a greater consideration for the need for precautions relative to those various products, services, and activities with which people interact.
In other words, it’s important stuff.
The need for systems to ensure safety is a principal concern. By analyzing human behavior – including its limitations – human factors engineering enables one to understand and predict the likely range of conduct, which may pose a foreseeable danger in light of predictable human behavior and its limitations.
When we evaluate incidents or systems in order to understand causes, it’s important to consider all relevant components of the system, not just the person in that system. At ACS, we’re qualified to evaluate not only human behavior and training, but also characteristics of the design, maintenance, and environmental conditions at play in the particular scenario.
Where does safety and risk management fit in?
The ACS team is also certified through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals, providing a knowledge base that enables us to evaluate systems within an accepted methodology in order to identify overall compliance of any given system with all applicable safety principles, guidelines, and standards. There are five basic components to this methodology: