Knowledge areas

Understanding what makes this discipline unique

Getting breadth and depth

Qualification in ergonomics and human factors requires knowledge in a broad variety of areas and a deep understanding of how to apply it all and build skills in relation to people and their interaction with other people, products, tasks, environments and systems.

Here's how we categorise these knowledge areas, together with a brief explanation of each.

Anatomy and physiology

Ageing: Effects of the ageing process on physical and cognitive capabilities and wellbeing.
Anatomy: The structure of the human body and how this affects physical performance, function, risk of trauma and wellbeing.
Biomechanics: The mechanics of force transmission and movement in the human body.
Disabilities and vulnerabilities: The effects of physical and cognitive disabilities and vulnerabilities.
Human auditory system: The mechanisms and problems involved in the perception of sound and the faculty of hearing.
Human visual system: The mechanisms and problems involved in the perception of light and the faculty of sight.
Musculoskeletal disorders: The effects of physical activity on musculature and the skeleton, and knowledge of common disorders.
Physiology: The processes and functions of the human body.
Physiotherapy: The treatment of injuries and other conditions through the use of physical methods.
Repetitive strain injuries: The causes and symptoms of RSI and knowledge of measures to remove or reduce its effect.


Attention: The theories relating to the way in which people attend to and process information, and knowledge of common limitations.
Behaviour and attitudes: The theories relating to influences and processes affecting attitudes and behaviours.
Behavioural safety: The attitudes and behaviours related to safety, together with the theories and principles that are involved in creating safe behaviours.
Change management: The factors and methods involved in the management of change within organisations.
Cognition: The mental actions or processes used to acquire knowledge and understanding through thought.
Communication: The relationships and behaviours associated with person-to-person/group communication, both at an individual and organisational level.
Culture: The ideas, behaviours, attitudes, and traditions that exist within groups of people and organisations.
Decision making: The cognitive processes and biases involved in selecting a course of action or opinion.
Group behaviour: The dynamics, interactions of groups and the factors that influence group performance.
Job satisfaction: The attributes of job design that influence an individual’s fulfilment at work.
Leadership: The psychology underpinning the skills required to influence and lead teams to achieve successful outcomes.
Learning: How individuals acquire new, or modify existing, knowledge, skills and attitudes through experience, study or training.
Memory: The cognitive processes involved in acquiring, storing and recalling information in the short and long term.
Motivation: The processes involved in attention, enthusiasm and positive attitudes towards an activity.
Perception: The mechanisms by which people sense, process and interpret information through their senses.
Psychological stress: The factors that influence a person’s state of arousal and knowledge of the effects of stress on an individual, knowledge of the symptoms and measures to manage stress.
Psychometrics: The methods of testing and assessing an individual’s mental ability and personality.
Psychophysics: The relationship between, and measurement of, physical stimuli and an individual’s sensory response/perceptual processes.
Situation awareness: How an individual and/or group perceives a physical/cognitive real-time situation, how situation awareness changes, how this awareness influences decision making, and how it may be measured, modelled and assessed.
Supervision: The attributes required for effective leadership of a working team or group.
Training and competence: The methods that enable an individual to increase their knowledge, skills and abilities and knowledge of methods to manage training and competence at work.
Workload: How an individual and/or group is affected by physical or mental workload, especially overloads, and knowledge of techniques and constraints relating to its measurement.

People and Systems

Communication systems: The mechanisms and methods used (including spoken, written and pictographic) and problems involved in person-to-person and person-to-system communications.
Human computer interaction: The design, evaluation and implementation of interactive computing systems for human use.
Human factors integration: The methods/process for the integration of human factors into systems engineering during design development.
Human machine systems: The design, evaluation and implementation of interactive machine systems for human use.
Human reliability and error: Human failure types and the identification and assessment of performance shaping factors that influence human reliability, and knowledge of measures to prevent/reduce human failure.
Job design: The factors relating to jobs and work and their relationship with organisational, social and personal requirements.
Manual handling: The nature of manual handling tasks, the risks involved (e.g. fatigue, MSD and injury) and how these risks may be avoided or mitigated in line with manual handling regulations.
Organisational learning: The methods and theories of how an organisation learns and adapts to change.
Organisational change: How organisations change their processes, arrangements, culture and behaviours.
Product design: The methods involved in the design, development, testing and use of products.
Process analysis: The methods to analyse the inputs, outputs and operations that together form a process.
Safety culture: The values, attitudes, perceptions and behaviours exhibited by an organisation with regard to safety.
Shiftwork: Chronobiology and the effects of shift and other working patterns on human biology, psychology and task performance.
Socio-technical systems: The interactions between social and technological systems and their effects on human biology, psychology and task performance.
System engineering: The methods and processes in the design and management of complex human-engineering systems.
Team work: The principles of team working covering issues such as person-to-person interaction, team leadership and supervision.
User centred design: The methods and processes that focus on the end user through the design life-cycle.
User experience: The methods and processes that design for and assess the total user experience (including usability, user feelings, motivations and values) with respect to products and services.

Work Environment

Abnormal environments: The norms, properties and effects of abnormal and extreme environments on human biology, psychology and task performance.
Auditory environment: The norms, properties and effects of the auditory environment including noise, reverberation and sonics on human biology, psychology and task performance.
Mechanical environment: The norms, properties and effects of the mechanical environment including vibration, shock, jitter, high/low and changing g-forces on human biology, psychology and task performance.
Thermal environment: The norms, properties and effects of the thermal environment including temperature, humidity and air movement on human biology, psychology and task performance and how to apply this knowledge.
Visual environment: The norms, properties and effects of the visual environment including light level and flow, glare, strobes and flicker on human biology, psychology and task performance.
Workplace design & assessment: The design and assessment of the physical workspace.

Methods and Tools

Anthropometrics: Data collection and application of human body measurements.
Data collection and analysis: The methods used to collect and analysis data to ensure validity and accuracy.
Ethics: The principles, moral values and safeguards involved in undertaking ergonomics and human factors activities, in particular with regard to the people involved, whatever their role.
Evaluation of work activities: The methods involved in collection and analysis of data obtained from observing people in their work environment and their limitations.
Experimental design: The development, design, conduct, data management and analysis of experiments.
Focus groups: A method of information elicitation through group discussion.
Knowledge elicitation: The principles and methods to capture tacit knowledge explicitly, by interacting directly with individuals, teams and organisations, through focus groups, interviews, observation, role playing, surveys and workshops.
Measurement techniques: The principles and practice of making measurements to obtain valid, accurate and repeatable data.
Questionnaire and interview design: The development, design, administration and scoring of questionnaires and interviews to obtain valid and accurate data.
Statistics: Statistical theory and practice, including methods to collect, classify, analyse and interpret qualitative and quantitative data to derive numerical information.
Task analysis: The methods used to represent tasks in a structured manner and to describe the physical and mental activities of those tasks.


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