What is

Human Factors?

The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) defines "human factors" as “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”

Human Factors engineers evaluate and design the interactions of people, tasks, environment, technology, and organizations, to make sure the interactions are compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations.

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Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES)

HFES is the professional society for human factors/ergonomics professionals in the USA.  Its members are involved in academics, consultation, technology, high risk industries and healthcare among other disciplines. Its publication includes: Human Factors, Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision Making, Ergonomics in design, Proceedings of the HFES Annual Meeting, Reviews of Human Factors and Ergonomics and Proceedings of the HFES Health-Care Symposium. 


IEA is an international coalition of societies that was founded in Zurich, Switzerland.  Its mission is to “elaborate and advance ergonomics science and practice, and to expand its scope of application and contribution to society to improve the quality of life”.

International Ergonomics Association (IEA)

The Nielsen Norman Group (NN/g) is a UX research and consulting firm. They provide useful articles, research, trainings, and so much more world-wide.

Safety within Healthcare -- Sidney Dekker

Safety is an important topic in Healthcare. Human Factors and Ergonomics professionals are most often also involved with safety, not just within healthcare but in many aspects of their work. One of the emerging ideas in safety is a rethinking how we approach safety in industry. Sidney Dekker, a professor at Griffith University in Australia, has written and spoken a lot about this new perspective this lecture gives a good summary. Take a moment to watch his video and learn more Safety Differently.

Saving Lives: Guidance from the Science of Teamwork

The TeamSTEPPS principles are built off a rich history within human factors research. One of the pre-eminent researchers in the area of teams is Dr. Eduardo Salas of Rice University. Take a look at one of Dr. Salas’ presentations from Rice University regarding the importance of teams, the psychology behind teamwork, and a series of useful tips that can be applied to your own teams. 


Teamwork and TeamSTEPPS

Teamwork has been an important area of study for HFE professionals that is very applicable to the healthcare field. TeamSTEPPS is a program of AHRQ that applies team work to improving performance and safety in healthcare.  

The Design of "Bad Doors"

Watch this video that illustrates another core value of Human Factors and Ergonomics – designing for the user. This is often a principle that door manufacturers sometimes neglect.

What is the difference between human factors and ergonomics? 


This is a very frequently asked question when discussing human factors. A good answer can be found from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors based in the UK: “The terms ‘ergonomics’ and ‘human factors’ can be used interchangeably, although ‘ergonomics’ is often used in relation to the physical aspects of the environment, such as workstations and control panels, while ‘human factors’ is often used in relation to wider system in which people work.”