Increasing safety, comfort and efficiency

Ergonomics and Human Factors in the transport sector is concerned with ensuring that all aspects of transport design meets the needs of people engaging with those designs, safely and efficiently. The consideration of human factors extends beyond vehicle design (trains, planes, automobiles, boats, motorcycles, bicycles, etc.) to include the design of the surrounding infrastructure (e.g. roads and railways) and traffic management and control systems.

Within the transport sector, a well-considered balance needs to be struck between expediting flow and ensuring safety. The pressure to minimise journey time and resource usage can at times be at odds with the requirement to maximise the safety of all. For public transport, in particular, inclusive design and the needs of those with reduced mobility are of key importance. Public transport is often a gateway to increased independence.

Watch the video of CIEHF Fellow Dr Ann Mills talking about her work at the Rail Safety & Standards Board.

Human factors has an important part to play in investigations when things to wrong too. Watch the video, created by Thomas Jun of Loughborough University, of a South Korean ferry accident for an illustration.


Dr Claire Dickinson, CIEHF President (2017-8) & Central Specialist Inspectors’ Team Manager & ORR Occupational Health Programme Manager, Office of Rail and Road

If there was just one thing you could bring to the profession as President of the CIEHF, what would it be?  
Support & encouragement for practitioners and members. We need to work together and play to everyone’s strengths.

What would you say is the biggest challenge faced in your sector?
Rail Sector: Increasing the network performance and capacity, i.e. more/bigger trains/stations to cope with increasing numbers or: Securing agreement on changes to working practices. Though on a personal basis, my current biggest working challenge concerns getting good ergonomics and human factors requirements into the railway regulations and guidance.

How would you describe ergonomics/human factors to someone outside of the industry in few words?
It’s about people in systems.

What’s your biggest hope for the profession?
We see growth of CIEHF membership numbers and more jobs for chartered ergonomists.

What would be your top piece of advice for graduates keen to enter the profession?
Get a breadth of experience – move roles every 3 years and get a breadth of experience in tools and approaches and different industrial sectors. Don’t specialise too soon.

Name the person who has most inspired you to follow your career.
Dr Duncan Troup, my PhD Supervisor and Dr Debbie Lucas, my former colleague and friend.

Who would be your top 3 dinner party guests (dead or alive)?
Sir Robert Winston, Sandy Toksvig, David Attenborough. (Or Robert, Charlotte and Peter Dickinson – I love our family dinners, they are all bonkers!)

Name something that can’t be taught and can only be learned with age?
Treasure and protect your professional and social networks – if you look after people, they’ll look out for you.

If you could choose one superpower, what would it be?
Insight / forward thinking

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Case studies

Situation awareness failures at level crossings

Posted on 6/11/2015
When rail accidents happen 'human error' is often blamed. Paul Salmon argues that in order to understand what's gone wrong, the whole system must be examined.

Incorporating human factors into train design

Posted on 6/11/2015
Dan Jenkins and Carl Harvey describe how a full-size mock up helped designers to test and tweak every detail of the new intercity express train.

Better car design for drivers of all ages

Posted on 6/11/2015
As the population ages, there will be more and more older drivers on the road. Sukru Karali and colleagues examine what the needs of olders drivers are and ask whether these needs are being met by current car design.

Flying towards the future: An overview of cockpit technologies

Posted on 6/11/2015
The cockpit was of the first workplaces to benefit from human factors research. Katherine Plant describes the evolution of the cockpit and the human factors implication of the new technology it contains.

When kindness causes chaos: the politeness problem in roadworks

Posted on 6/11/2015
Simulations predicting behaviour in traffic assume we are rational. But it appears we are not. Guy Walker discusses how our attachment to queuing etiquette causes huge delays in traffic at road works.

Improving safety on board ships through better bridge design

Posted on 6/11/2015
Human factors specialists describe how to create a ship's bridge concept that will improve operational safety and comfort on board during demanding offshore operations.

Communication between cars: an aid to interaction or fuel for rage?

Posted on 6/11/2015
What if you had a device that allowed you to communicate with the driver of the car that's tailgating you? Raphael Lamas finds out if drivers would use such a device, and if so, how they would use it.

Small unmanned air vehicles: innocent hobby or high-tech disaster in the making?

Posted on 6/11/2015
Quadcopters and other sUAVs are becoming increasingly popular among both hobbyists and corporations looking to exploit their potential as delivery devices. Bob Stone discusses the human factors and safety implications of sUAVs and argues in favour of

Safety at sea: human factors aboard ship

Posted on 6/11/2015
Changes in shipping practices that mean human factors input is becoming increasingly important for improving safety and efficiency on board ships, but as Catherine Harvey and colleagues discuss, working with an industry so steeped in tradition can be