The Future of Human Factors in Aviation
The International Ergonomics Association (2000) defines human factors:
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 other methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.
The science of human factors in aviation has a come along way since the days of the Wright brothers in 1913 but it did not actually start with them. According to Dr. Bill Johnson, Chief Scientist at the Federal Aviation Administration, human factors “dates back to the 1600s when Leonardo da Vinci drew the ...view middle of the document...
His accident model was formulated based off notable historic accidents that occurred with the Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and King’s Cross Underground accidents (Eurocontrol Experimental Centre [EEC], 2006). Dr. Reason formulated his own research and dissected the works of others to come to a logical human factors thought process as to why accidents occur.
The Swiss cheese model shows that accidents occur when the metaphoric layers of Swiss cheese line up so that the trajectory of an accident opportunity will be able to pass through thus creating the accident. The three basic layers of the model are: “organization, workplace, and person” (EEC, 2006). These layers can be further broken down to represent more latent failures high up in the chain. These latent failures represent organizational, managerial, and corporate cultural issues. Workplace dynamics including supervisory failures to include unsafe acts or shortcuts represent more layers. Technical instructions and training form more layers. The final layers of the model where the accident occurs with the human can include physiological factors, personal problems, and simple errors (Reason, 1990).
The “Swiss cheese” lines up in a perfect storm (see figure 1) with the accident slipping through all the holes of the cheese allowing an accident to occur. If only one of the layers of “cheese” were to not line up the accident could be avoided. An example of a layer not lining up could be a supervisor stopping an unsafe act or training to create more aware workers. The final layer being the human could see an accident waiting to happen and stop the chain of events before something catastrophic happens.
Figure 1. Reason’s "Swiss cheese" model (U.S. Department of the Interior, 2009)
According to the National Institute of General Medical Sciences:
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment. Circadian rhythms are natural factors within the body based on environmental signals. Light is the main cue influencing circadian rhythms. (2012)
Circadian rhythm studies date all the way back to the work of French scientist de Mairan who in the 1700s studied daily leaf movements of a plant. He observed that the leaves would raise and lower even when placed in an unlit room. His findings suggested that the plant itself had an internal clock. Further studies took place by researchers Colin Pittendrigh and Jurgen Aschoff whom were the pioneers of circadian rhythm research back in the 1950s (Vitaterna et al., n.d.).