Observations of Ergonomics

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Rail Human Factors Conference 2013

I presented my paper, ‘The Observatron: Collecting Task Time Data Using A Bespoke Software Application’, at the 4th International Rail Human Factors conference 2013. The event took place in London in March.

My paper was about the ‘Observatron’, a software application I developed which can be used by human factors engineers to collect task timing data while watching people at work. Task times are really useful in the assessment of workload, and can also be used to support the design of workspaces.

I’m pleased to say my presentation seemed to go pretty well, and I had some really positive feedback about both the paper and the software itself. There was plenty of interest from people in other companies who wanted to use the Observatron themselves, something I will have to look into over the coming months.

Tagged human factors ergonomics rail observatron

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During the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games I’m working as a TfL Travel Ambassador, providing all kinds of travel information and guidance to members of the public. The Paralympics started today, a timely reminder that this is what the London Underground map looks like to those who can’t use stairs to get from the street to the platform.
However, being able to get to the platform doesn’t guarantee step-free access to the train. During the games boarding ramps will be in operation at 16 stations to remedy this, or to provide step-free interchanges. I think this is a really positive step in improving accessibility to the Underground.
As well as improving access in the short-term, it will be possible to better assess the demand for wheelchair access on the Underground. This could be used to make plans for the future.

During the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games I’m working as a TfL Travel Ambassador, providing all kinds of travel information and guidance to members of the public. The Paralympics started today, a timely reminder that this is what the London Underground map looks like to those who can’t use stairs to get from the street to the platform.

However, being able to get to the platform doesn’t guarantee step-free access to the train. During the games boarding ramps will be in operation at 16 stations to remedy this, or to provide step-free interchanges. I think this is a really positive step in improving accessibility to the Underground.

As well as improving access in the short-term, it will be possible to better assess the demand for wheelchair access on the Underground. This could be used to make plans for the future.

Tagged human factors ergonomics Accessibility Transport London Underground

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City University – Human Computer Interaction Design Open Day

City University in London hosts an annual open day with presentations, workshops and demonstrations related to Human Computer Interaction Design (HCID).

The website for 2012 HCID open day now has links to the presentations made on the day. This year I saw:

 I’m looking forward to more next year!

Tagged human factors ergonomics HCI

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Touch In Cars Is Still Too Complicated

This review of the Cadillac User Experience System describes several usability issues with the touchscreen, including:

  • Delays when selecting controls due to the slow processor.
  • Too many touches needed to navigate the system menus, especially for commonly used controls.
  • Having to wait for the proximity sensor to detect the presence of a hand before displaying certain controls.

Worryingly, that’s three aspects of the design that increase the amount of time the driver spends not looking at the road.

Related posts: ‘MyFord Touch’ and ‘Haptic Feedback’.

Tagged human factors ergonomics automotive touchscreen

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Make it better: Designing Out Medical Error

I managed to squeeze in a lunchtime visit to the ‘Make it Better’ exhibition held at the Royal College of Surgeons. The exhibition showcased products designed as part of the ‘DOME project’, which is aimed at designing out medical errors in the clinical environment. The project identified five key error-prone processes on surgical wards, each with their own solution:

  1. Hand washing
  2. Information handover
  3. Vital signs monitoring
  4. Isolation of infection
  5. Medication delivery

I was most impressed by the ‘Care Centre’; a bedside workstation design, with some really well considered features which improve access to facilities for controlling the spread of infection.

As well as dispensers for alcohol hand gel, gloves and aprons, the waste bin to the side of the workstation is opened without having to touch it. The Care Centre has since been developed into a commercial product.

I thought the iPad app used to monitor vital signs was the most interesting design on display. The app is used to guide the nurse through the process of recording blood pressure, temperature, pulse and respiratory rate. This video shows the neat way that respiratory rate is recorded (about 2mins 15seconds in). Recording key vital signs digitally opens up new possibilities for visualising the data, meaning trends could be spotted more easily.

I worked on a similar project during my Systems Engineering degree at Loughborough University. We created an application used to guide the nurse through the process of creating a EuroSCORE for patients due to undergo cardiac surgery. The application was also used post surgery to collect, display and analyse key cardiovascular parameters. The measurements allowed clinicians to make timely patient assessment, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment decisions.

I think the wider implications of data collection apps in hospitals are huge. Real-time data could be used to prioritise which patients receive care, and long term there would be an opportunity to use stored data for in-depth analysis.

Tagged human factors ergonomics medical device design usability error