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Human Factors in Work Design

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(a) Describe what psychologists have learned about human factors in work design. 'Human factors in work design' refers to a specialty area of I/O psychology concerning the design and development of tools, machines, work systems and workplaces, such that their characteristics correspond with the skills and abilities of the worker. This answer will focus on the efficient design of 'operator-machine systems' and the workspace. A primary concern for human factors psychologists is the design of 'operator-machine system', which is the two-way interaction between workers and tools, collaborating to perform a task. Chapanis (1976) has provided an outline of the various elements of the operator-machine system: the human system of the operator-machine system comprises of sensing, information processing/decision-making and controlling; whereas, the machine system consists of controls, operation and displays. In the following paragraphs, each element of this interaction will be explored in detail. In the initial step of the interaction, the machine communicates information regarding its operational status to the operator on mechanical devices called displays. Displays are of several types, one of which is the visual display. The visual display can provide detailed and complex information to the operator. It can take one of three forms: quantitative (that gives precise numerical values), qualitative (that provides characteristics of machine operation) and check-reading (that indicates whether a machine system is on or off or functioning normally or abnormally). ...read more.


The latter is more efficient for touch typing as over 3000 words can be typed using letters from the home row alone (as opposed to the 120 words using QWERTY keyboard), which may increase typing speed by 5 to 20 percent (Sander et al., 1993). Certain basic principles have to be followed in design and selection of controls in order for operator decisions to be communicated effectively. First, controls should be matched to the operator's body. To prevent operator's hands from being overloaded, only controls requiring great precision should be hand-operated; other simple operations should be controlled by foot. Second, control movements should mirror the machine actions they produce. Third, related controls should be combined so that in one action, the operator can change the operation of both systems. Fourth, controls should be clearly marked for rapid identification. Not only can they be visually recognized, some controls may require shape-coded controls that can be quickly recognized by touch. Fifth, the placement of important controls on similar machine systems should be standardized, especially when a worker is required to alternate between several similar machines regularly. Sixth, controls, especially emergency controls, should be adequately spaced and arranged to avoid unintentional activation. Upon the conclusion of the action stage, the manipulation of the controls becomes the machine's input, which causes the machine to perform the requested action. Subsequent changes in the operating status are then communicated to the operator via displays, and the cycle continues. ...read more.


The desk should be spacious enough to accommodate the storage of all necessary items of use, including books, stationery and such devices as table clocks, lamps, computers and related hardware. To avoid the desk taking too much space, the desk should incorporate various compartments such as shelves, cabinets and drawers, for the storage of books, writing material, and stationery, leaving the desk empty for the computer hardware and items of immediate use. These compartments should be of varying shapes and sizes, so that all items to be stored can be grouped by function - as stipulated by the functional principle - resulting in an organized, clutter-free environment for the student The seat should be designed so that the student is at the proper height and distance from the desk. They should also be fashioned so that a student who is seated for long periods do not experience back or leg strain. Also, the workspace should not only be designed for functional efficiency, but its characteristics must also be psychologically appealing (Donald, 1994). Therefore, it should be located in a place where extraneous noises are at their minimum. Also, the area should be properly illuminated, preferably with fluorescent lighting that provides increased illumination, better light distribution and reduced energy cost, as compared to incandescent lighting. Also, care must be taken not to overlight the work area. ...read more.

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