Human factors/ergonomics as a systems discipline? "The human use of human beings" revisited

Appl Ergon. 2014 Jan;45(1):40-4. doi: 10.1016/j.apergo.2013.03.024. Epub 2013 May 2.


Discussions of the possible future of Human factors/ergonomics (HFE) usually take the past for granted in the sense that the future of HFE is assumed to be more of the same. This paper argues that the nature of work in the early 2010s is so different from the nature of work when HFE was formulated 60-70 years ago that a critical reassessment of the basis for HFE is needed. If HFE should be a systems discipline, it should be a soft systems rather than a hard systems discipline. It is not enough for HFE to seek to improve performance and well-being through systems design, since any change to the work environment in principle alters the very basis for the change. Instead HFE should try to anticipate how the nature of work will change so that it can both foresee what work will be and propose what work should be.

Keywords: Human factors/ergonomics (HFE).

MeSH terms

  • Ergonomics*
  • Humans
  • Man-Machine Systems
  • Systems Theory
  • Technology*
  • Work*