Hazardex 2021 Paper - The importance of considering the role of the user early in the assessment and design process


We’ve all experienced bad design in the everyday products and systems we use, often these lead to frustration rather than impact on your health or safety. Poor designs are typically caused by not designing the task or equipment with full consideration of the range of users, its context of use or environment.

Human Factors (HF) as a discipline plays an integral role within many industries and early involvement can be vital to ensuring a good ending – a well-designed piece of equipment, system or process. Human Factors is concerned with the understanding of how humans interact with all elements of a system. When the role of the operator is considered holistically with all other aspects of the system the final design becomes more usable and error tolerant. Within high-hazard environments effectively integrating Human Factors becomes crucial for ensuring the reduction of risk and improving overall system and operator performance.

Through successful HF involvement the role of the operator is understood, and the system is designed to support human performance which provides a strong basis for good design and successful operations. This ensures that the system is operable and safe considering a wide range of task, equipment, people and environmental factors.

Due to changes in regulations, standards (e.g. release and implementation of BS EN ISO 9241-2101) and industry expectations there has been a growing need for HF involvement at earlier project stages to ensure that the greatest benefit can be derived from their involvement. As part of this, greater focus is now being placed on the need for early HF involvement within design stages (as early as concept phase) to ensure that equipment, systems and facilities can be operated in a safe and efficient manner to support their required operating goals.

This presentation illustrates the impact HF involvement has, as well as the importance on the timing of its inclusion, in increasing usability, safety and error tolerance within a system. Early and effective HF input is necessary to influence design throughout a project’s lifecycle, in doing so many benefits will be seen beyond the immediate operational improvements.

Early engagement of HF personnel can support the identification of any potential risks or issues that should be resolved as early as possible whilst changes are quicker, easier and cheaper to make.

Ewan Povall

Ewan Povall is a Human Factors Specialist with experience in supporting the development of designs, safety assessments and operational arrangements to ensure that Human Factors relevant good practice is incorporated in a pragmatic and proportionate manner to help provide suitably safe, efficient and operable equipment, systems and facilities.

Ewan’s background in Psychology and Applied Behavioural Analysis have given him an interest in human performance and the physical and psychological drivers behind human behaviour. During his time in the nuclear industry Ewan has gained experience of applying and writing ergonomic guidance to support designs for a wide range of users as well as reviewing existing designs/systems to identify potential deficiencies that could lead to safety consequences or operator error.

Chris Heath

Chris Heath is a Graduate Human Factors Consultant in his first year at RPS, after graduating from a MSc in Human Factors with Inclusive Design at Loughborough University. Chris is developing and applying his knowledge of Human Factors methods within High-Hazard Industries while working towards becoming a Chartered Ergonomist and completing the National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety.

Chris’ background in Human Factors follows on from an Industrial Design undergraduate degree which together has given him a strong understanding of the impact Human Factors can have within design and experience in utilising HF methods throughout the design process to develop products and systems which aim to fully consider the user within the wider context of use and the environment.