Human Factors, Politics and Power
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Human factors as an engineering discipline that concerns the design of equipment in accordance with the mental and physical characteristics of operators. Since World War II responsibility for seeing that equipment designers take the characteristics of operators and maintenance people into account in their designs has been formalized in the position of human factors engineer, human engineer or ergonomist (Perrow 1983). In more recent years the rise of information or computer-based technologies has led to a rapid increase in human-computer interface or usability engineering. Human factors research may be interpreted more broadly in terms of those disciplines or subdisciplines concerned with the psychological and organizational aspects of the development, implementation and use of technology (Clegg 1993). Narrower concerns with physical or cognitive ergonomics and direct health and safety issues are then broadened to include the impact of technology on the jobs of direct and indirect users, the consequence of technology for changes in organizational structure and processes, and the processes by which technology should be designed and implemented. Despite arguments for adopting a broader view of human factors, survey and case study research carried out for the National Science Foundation’s Manufacturing Processes and Equipment Program confirmed that health and safety and ergonomics continue to be the main human factors concerns among US firms (Lund et al. 1993).