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Discuss/describe the following environments from a Human Factors Workspace Design perspective.

Office Environment –  First, upon considering the change in the office environment’s dynamics, shifting from isolation to collaboration, it is important to focus on an open office design (one that facilitates rapid interaction between fellow office employees). As well, it is important that the space responds to the team’s cognitive needs (in terms of dynamic awareness and relationship strength, primarily). Furthermore, it is important that all employees feel comfortable, while at the same time constantly motivated. This being said, it is recommended that all furniture is ergonomically sound (tending to each employee’s comfort), that there is a special space for leisure and casual interaction, and that the organizational values are visible somewhere in the space.

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Auto Mechanic- Mechanics need a large, open space, where they can freely move around. Illumination is important, as well as thermal comfort, so that they can take their time and not rush work on the automobiles. As well there should be a space with a television, maybe a sofa, and some refreshments. In terms of equipment, everything should conform to the safety standards, and each piece of equipment should be placed in its particular space.

Construction worker- In a construction worker’s case, it is imperative to focus on ergonomics, and above all, user/worker safety. Given the multiple hazards that construction workers face, it is important that the space is open enough for workers to be able to visualize any danger that may be coming their way (before it reaches them). Keeping sound levels down and maintaining high levels of illumination are also important considerations. In terms of equipment, it should all conform to the maximum safety standards, and should include detailed labeling and instructions.

Discuss some of the stressors in the following environments and how you could apply Human Factors to reduce these stressors.

Working in a Machine Shop/Industrial Environment – Industrial environments present multiple stressors, including first and foremost, physical stressors. For example, it is frequent to find industrial workers facing overload, heat, and excessive noise. Other stressors include the following: task-related (time pressure; monotonous work), social (interpersonal conflict), and traumatic (dangerous activities). Human Factors could be applied to reduce these stressors by carrying out focus groups and working together with employees in developing a new workplace design that minimizes noise and monotony. Moreover, these groups could help employees by allowing them to express discomfort about working schedules and safety precautions.

Working on an assembly line – Here again, working on an assembly line involves tedious, monotonous work. Also, it should be noted that assembly line work generates physical stressors (overload; noise; heat), work-schedule stressors (overtime; night shifts), and organizational stressors as well (technological implementation). These stressors could be overcome through the redesign of the production process (trying to make it less monotonous, probably by placing employees in more direct contact with each other). In addition, in terms of technological implementation, constant capacitation should be held.

Airport Baggage Loader/Handler – First, this type of work may generate a specific task- related stressor, which is monotonous work (as the work pretty much entails handling equipment all day). Moreover, this is a line of work that presents career- related stressors, the most salient of which is the fact that it is a job that offers poor career opportunities. Once again, Human Factors can be used to collect valuable input from employees regarding monotony and career opportunities. Perhaps, it would be possible to design a new organizational structure to promote ascension, or training programs in order to improve their career opportunities.

Discuss at least 5 Factors that cause or contribute to accidents and how they may be avoided.

First of all, accidents may be caused by negligence, which is basically the failure to observe (safety) rules and/or instructions while carrying out a given task. Second, accidents happen, when people become angry; this makes them irrational, which, in turn, makes them disregard common sense. Third, distractions are another common cause of accidents, and they may occur due to the multiple causes (household problems; news; pranks). Fourth, curiosity may be a powerful cause for accident, since employees, giving in to curiosity, might attempt to do risky things just to see what will happen. Fifth, overconfidence is another frequent cause for accidents at the work place. When workers become cocky, claiming to know exactly what they are doing, they are more inclined to taking risks, which elevates the probability of accidents occurring. Having discussed these 5 factors that cause, or contribute to, accidents, it is important to point out that they may all be avoided by the strict following of the protocols (accompanied by continuous monitoring and control).

Discuss how Microsoft Office products have implemented Human Factors in their software and how it helps improve efficiencies.

Human factors, as applied to computer software programs (including the Microsoft Office suite), involve the way, in which users interact with virtual environments (including, of course, computer software). This being said, in order to push Human Factors forward, software such as Microsoft Office has invested heavily in terms of developing software applications that conform to the principles of universal design. These types of software applications seek to guarantee equitable use (so that people with different skill levels can use them without any smaller or bigger level of complication). As well, these software applications are designed so that they can be flexible, meaning that they can be personalized for individual tastes/preferences. Third, they provide for simple and intuitive use, meaning that even the least experienced user can easily understand and use the software. Fourth, these applications strive for perceptible information, and they have a high level of tolerance for error. This means that when the user makes a mistake, the negative effects of this mistake will be minimal. Finally, such applications strive for minimal physical effort, and they also strive for ergonomics (which has to do mostly with the user interface layout and visibility). All things considered, it can be seen that Human Factors have been used to improve the software, because with each passing version, the layout and overall user interface become easier to use. Its use is increasingly simplified and intuitive; it is easier to understand and more personalization can be performed (for example, earlier versions did not allow for graphs and tables to be inserted so simply, nor was there function grouping in the different categories on the standard toolbar).

Discuss/describe at least 5 problems in Automation and give examples of how Human Factors principles can help to overcome these problems. 

In discussing problems with automation, the first one that may be pointed out is inappropriate feedback. Employees can provide detailed feedback regarding the way in which a program or machinery is functioning. Machines cannot provide feedback, since they are machines. Secondly, automation may generate the problem of inappropriate interaction, especially in instances, where automated equipment comes into the direct interaction with human employees. Third, machines cannot learn as they go; they are programmed to perform in a given way and will always perform in the same manner, no matter what. This last problem leads to the fourth problem, which is the automated equipment’s inability to discern between different cases. There will be situations, when a condition will change, and so different actions will be required. Employees can respond rapidly in the real time, while automated machines cannot. Finally, there is always the problem of system malfunctions, which would ultimately render the entire production process inefficient. This being said, and taking a Human Factors perspective, these problems may be solved by bridging the gap between automated machinery/applications and employees themselves. In other words, input from employees must be used in developing the automated equipment, so that the machines can program to act in certain ways under certain situations (like human beings would).

Human Factors in Transportation is a serious issue we all face. Discuss 4 Visibility issues that drivers’ encounter and ways Human Factors initiatives could /does improve driver safety. 

When talking about the visibility issues that affect drivers’ visibility, the first one that comes to mind is undersized mirrors. It is frequent to find that large cars have relatively small side-view mirrors. Human Factors could help by developing mirrors that better adjust to the drivers’ needs (considering their seating positions, height, size, etc.). A second issue that negatively affects drivers’ visibility is that of oversized head restraints. Here again we find that if head restraints are too large (which is the tendency nowadays in order to reduce neck and head injuries), then such a shortcoming must necessarily be compensated by designing a larger rear-view mirror that offers enhanced mobility. Third, window size is another issue that must be considered. If windows are too small, visibility is negatively affected (and the driver’s blind spot will naturally increase). In order to avoid this, it is important to make sure that aerodynamics and aesthetics do not hinder visibility. Smaller windows make cars stronger, but larger windows are necessary too; so a solution might be to develop stronger materials for fabricating the windows. Fourth, sloping windshields may be a visibility hazard during rainy weather. The problem is that the windshields have steep angles; this is done purposefully for increasing fuel economy. However, Human Factors might help by contributing in the design of a new kind of windshield that allows for a planer angle.

Discuss at least 4 Methods for Enhanced Training and give examples or discuss how to accomplish these methods.

The four methods used for Enhanced Training include the following: iterative design; subjects-in-tandem; work sampling; think aloud protocol. The first of these methods may be achieved, or accomplished, by constantly observing designs (by users) throughout the different stages of the production process in order to ensure the best ending product. The second method may be accomplished by having subjects work on tasks and asking them to discuss their observations, so that the researcher can identify any design problems and solve them. The third method may be accomplished by making random sampling of tasks in order to make an assessment of the ways employees perform the tasks, how long they take, and what impact they have on their bodies and minds. Finally, the fourth method may be accomplished by having users carry out specific tasks and asking them to openly and continuously discuss their perceptions/feelings regarding these tasks.

When considering Hand Tool design what are some of the considerations and how do they help reduce the stress on the human body?

Some considerations to be made in the Hand Tool design include the following: grip configuration (levels of muscle exertion; tendon tension; wrist anthropometry), wrist angle (intra-wrist supporting forces; direction of tendons and synovia), tool shape (hand and forearm must be allowed to remain fully aligned, especially when grip exertion is forceful), and hand tool weight (rest usage; hand grip). All of these considerations can effectively allow for the hand to be preserved intact when hand tools are being used. The fundamental idea behind each of these considerations is to minimize the stress being applied on the hand at a given time (when the tool is being used).  Based on this, it becomes clear that stress may be reduced by providing hand tool designs that guarantee full alignment between the hand and the forearm, by including weight supports that relieve the supporting force exerted by the wrist and tendons. As well, as grip ergonomics improves, it will be necessary for less muscle pressure to be exerted, which will further reduce hand stress.

Give at least 5 reasons why a Team would break down.

First, teams may break down to a loss of respect and trust between the team members. Second, when the free-flow of ideas is hindered, communication becomes increasingly stressed, and this makes the team unsustainable. Third, intimidation by one or more members (against the rest of the team members) makes it impossible for harmonious interactions and communications. There is no teamwork; therefore, the team must break down. Fourth, biases break teams down because they polarize the team (since the ideas of some members are prized over those of others, even in instances, where those ideas may be useless). Fifth, faulty decision making breaks teams down because the team fails to deliver (in terms of results); there is no more credible justification for the team’s existence.

 Explain why, when a person is given oxygen after a vigorous workout they recover faster than a person not given oxygen.

This occurs simply because after vigorous workout the body returns to the homeostasis state, which means that the body starts releasing energy at a higher rate. The body attempts to restore itself, and this restoration implies blood re-oxygenation (which is accompanied by the renewal of the circulatory hormones). Given that during the vigorous workout the blood lost its oxygen, excess oxygen is required after the workout has been completed in order to guarantee that the body will restore itself. This is precisely why a person who receives oxygen recovers faster than a person who does not receive oxygen following vigorous workout.

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