The Way Forward for Human Factors/Ergonomics and Sustainability

  • Andrew ThatcherEmail author
  • Patrick Waterson
  • Andrew Todd
  • Paul H. P. Yeow
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 825)


In this paper we outline a vision for human factors/ergonomics and sustainability in the 21st century. The paper extends and updates earlier work by Moray (1995) which posed a number of global challenges for the discipline of HFE. In particular we point to several trends and priorities within HFE, these include: a shift away from specialization and towards trans-disciplinarity; greater emphasis on systems and complexity in HFE as compared to an earlier focus on micro-ergonomics; the emergence of values and ethics as central concerns for the discipline; moving away from mitigation and towards adaptation and intervention in our efforts to tackle global issues and sustainability; and, the importance of local, tailored and devolved solutions to problems such as climate change and disaster resilience. Our overall aim in the paper is to motivate and challenge HFE researchers and practitioners to further address and confront some of these priorities. The HFE discipline is well-placed to make significant contributions towards resolving global problems and our hope is that further and significant progress can be made in the coming decades.


Sustainability Global challenges Complexity Ethics 


  1. Bar-Yam Y (2002) Complexity Rising: From Human Beings to Human Civilization, a Complexity Profile. UNESCO Publishers, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  2. Bolis I, Brunoro CM, Sznelwar LI (2016) Work for sustainability: case studies of Brazilian companies. Appl Ergon 57:72–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boudeau C, Wilkin P, Dekker SW (2014) Ergonomics as authoritarian or libertarian: learning from Colin Ward’s politics of design. Des J 17:91–114Google Scholar
  4. Carayon P (2006) Human factors of complex sociotechnical systems. Appl Ergon 37:525–535CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cilliers P (1998) Complexity and Postmodernism: Understanding Complex Systems. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  6. Dekker SW, Hancock PA, Wilkin P (2013) Ergonomics and sustainability: towards an embrace of complexity and emergence. Ergonomics 56:357–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dul J, Bruder R, Buckle P, Carayon P, Falzon P, Marras WS, Wilson JR, van der Doelen B (2012) A strategy for human factors/ergonomics: developing the discipline and profession. Ergonomics 55:377–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fiore SM, Phillips E, Sellers BC (2014) A transdisciplinary perspective on hedonomic sustainability design. Ergon Des 22:22–29Google Scholar
  9. Franke T, Arend MG, McIlroy RC, Stanton NA (2016) Ecodriving in hybrid electric vehicles – exploring challenges for user-energy interaction. Appl Ergon 55:33–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fréjus M, Guibourdenche J (2012) Analysing domestic activity to reduce household energy consumption. Work 41(Supplement 1):539–548Google Scholar
  11. García-Acosta G, Pinilla MHS, Larrahondo PAR, Morales KL (2014) Ergoecology: fundamentals of a new multidisciplinary field. Theor Issues Ergon Sci 15:111–133CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hancock PA, Drury CG (2011) Does human factors/ergonomics contribute to the quality of life? Theor Issues Ergon Sci 12:416–426CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harvey J, Thorpe N, Fairchild R (2013) Attitudes towards and perceptions of eco driving and the role of feedback systems. Ergonomics 56:507–521CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hollnagel E (2012) FRAM: The Functional Resonance Analysis Method: Modelling Complex Socio-Technical Systems. Ashgate, BurlingtonGoogle Scholar
  15. Imada AS (1991) The rationale of participatory ergonomics. In: Noro K, Imada AS (eds) Participatory Ergonomics. Taylor & Francis, London, pp 30–49Google Scholar
  16. Incropera FP (2016) Climate Change: A Wicked Problem. Cambridge University Press, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lang DJ, Wiek A, Bergmann M, Stauffacher M, Martens P, Moll P, Swilling M, Thomas CJ (2012) Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science: practice, principles, and challenges. Sustain Sci 7:25–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lange-Morales K, Thatcher A, García-Acosta G (2014) Towards a sustainable world through human factors and ergonomics: it is all about values. Ergonomics 57:1603–1615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Leveson NG (2004) A new accident model for engineering safer systems. Saf Sci 42:237–270CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Martin KK, Legg SS, Brown CC (2013) Designing for sustainability: ergonomics - carpe diem. Ergonomics 56:365–388CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. McIlroy RC, Stanton NA (2017) Eco-Driving: From Strategies to Interfaces. CRC Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  22. Moore D, Barnard T (2012) With eloquence and humanity? Human factors/ergonomics in sustainable human development. Hum Factors 54:940–951CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Moray N (1995) Ergonomics and the global problems of the twenty-first century. Ergonomics 38:1691–1707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moray N (2000) Culture, politics and ergonomics. Ergonomics 43:858–868CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Murphy R (2012) Sustainability: a wicked problem. Sociologica 6:1–23Google Scholar
  26. Rasmussen J (1997) Risk management in a dynamic society: a modelling problem. Saf Sci 27:183–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Read GJ, Salmon PM, Lenné MG, Jenkins DP (2015) Designing a ticket to ride with the cognitive work analysis design toolkit. Ergonomics 58:1266–1286CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Revell KM, Stanton NA (2016) Mind the gap – deriving a compatible user mental model of the home heating system to encourage sustainable behaviour. Appl Ergon 57:48–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Richardson M, Maspero M, Golightly D, Sheffield D, Staples V, Lumber R (2017) Nature: a new paradigm for well-being and ergonomics. Ergonomics 60:292–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Salmon PM, Walker GH, Read GJM, Goode N, Stanton NA (2017) Fitting methods to paradigms: are ergonomics methods fit for systems thinking? Ergonomics 60:194–205CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sauer J, Wiese BS, Rüttinger B (2002) Improving ecological performance of electrical consumer products: the role of design-based measures and user variables. Appl Ergon 33:297–307CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Shappell SA, Wiegmann DA (2012) A Human Error Approach to Aviation Accident Analysis: The Human Factors Analysis and Classification System. Ashgate, BurlingtonGoogle Scholar
  33. Siemieniuch CE, Sinclair MA, Henshaw MJdeC (2015) Global drivers, sustainable manufacturing and systems ergonomics. Appl Ergon 51:104–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Stanton NA, McIlroy RC, Harvey C, Blainey S, Hickford A, Preston JM, Ryan B (2013) Following the cognitive work analysis train of thought: exploring the constraints of modal shift to rail transport. Ergonomics 56:522–540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Steffen W, Grinevald J, Crutzen P, McNeill J (2011) The anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives. Philos Trans R Soc Lond A Math Phys Eng Sci 369:842–867CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Steimle U, Zink KJ (2006) Sustainable development and human factors. In: Karwowski W (ed) International Encyclopedia of Ergonomics and Human Factors, 2nd edn. Taylor & Francis, LondonGoogle Scholar
  37. Stokols D, Misra S, Runnerstrom MG, Hipp JA (2009) Psychology in an age of ecological crisis: from personal angst to collective action. Am Psychol 64:181–193CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Thatcher A (2013) Green ergonomics: definition and scope. Ergonomics 56:389–398CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Thatcher A, Milner K (2014) Changes in productivity, psychological wellbeing and physical wellbeing from working in a ‘green’ building. Work 49:381–393Google Scholar
  40. Thatcher A, Waterson P, Todd A, Moray N (2018) State of science: ergonomics and global issues. Ergonomics 61:197–213CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Thatcher A, Yeow PHP (2016) A sustainable system of systems approach: a new HFE paradigm. Ergonomics 59:167–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Thatcher A, Yeow PHP (2018) Ergonomics and Human Factors for a Sustainable Future: Current Research and Future Possibilities. Palgrave-Macmillan, SingaporeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Tran FF, Hilliard A, Jamieson GA (2017) Keeping the lights on across the continent. Ergon Des 25:10–22Google Scholar
  44. Van den Bergh JCJM, Rietveld P (2004) Reconsidering the limits to world population: meta-analysis and meta-prediction. Bioscience 54:195–204CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Vicente KJ (1999) Cognitive Work Analysis: Toward Safe, Productive, and Healthy Computer-Based Work. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, MahwahGoogle Scholar
  46. Walker GH, Gibson H, Stanton NA, Baber C, Salmon P, Green D (2006) Event analysis of systemic teamwork (EAST): a novel integration of ergonomics methods to analyse C4i activity. Ergonomics 49:1345–1369CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Walker GH, Stanton NA, Salmon PM, Jenkins DP, Rafferty L (2010) Translating concepts of complexity to the field of ergonomics. Ergonomics 53:1175–1186CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wilkin P (2010) The ideology of ergonomics. Theor Issues Ergon Sci 11:230–244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wilson JR (2014) Fundamentals of systems ergonomics/human factors. Appl Ergon 45:5–13CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wisner A (1985) Ergonomics in industrially developing countries. Ergonomics 28:1213–1224CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zink KJ (2014) Designing sustainable work systems: the need for a systems approach. Appl Ergon 45:126–132CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zink KJ, Fischer K (2018) Human factors and ergonomics: contribution to sustainability and decent work in global supply chains. In: Thatcher A, Yeow PHP (eds) Ergonomics and Human Factors for a Sustainable Future. Palgrave Macmillan, Singapore, pp 243–269CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew Thatcher
    • 1
    Email author
  • Patrick Waterson
    • 2
  • Andrew Todd
    • 3
  • Paul H. P. Yeow
    • 4
  1. 1.University of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Human Factors and Complex Systems GroupLoughborough UniversityLoughboroughUK
  3. 3.Rhodes UniversityGrahamstownSouth Africa
  4. 4.Monash University MalaysiaSelangorMalaysia

Personalised recommendations