We need Human Factors in healthcare so the design of how, where & with what we do our work matches capability. This will enhance the wellbeing and performance of both individuals and organisations. Take a look at our educational resources.

Human Factors
Human factors logo

Human Factors (Ergonomics) is the study of human activity (inside and outside of work). Its purpose as a scientific discipline is to enhance wellbeing and performance of individuals and organisations. A number of different definitions of Human Factors exist. The key principles are the interactions between you and your environment both inside and outside of work and the tools and technologies you use.

Human Factors is 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 optimise human well-being and overall system performance.

International Ergonomics Association 2000

Video resource for front line staff explaining Human Factors from Trent Simulation and Clinical Skills:


Often the design inputs and processes related to the workplace fail to adequately take account of human abilities and characteristics, making it inevitable that failures will happen (and happen again). We know that many patient safety incidents across all health and social care sectors are directly related to a lack of attention to Human Factors issues such as; the design of everyday work tasks, processes & procedures; equipment and technologies, organisation of work and working environments. We would all agree that safe care delivered to a high standard is what we look for in a health and social care setting. We also want that care to be efficient and effective and delivered in a way that considers the needs of the recipient and the caregiver.

Human Factors (Ergonomics) can contribute to achieving this as it involves learning about our characteristics as humans (e.g. our physical size or strength, how we think and remember things) and using that understanding to improve our well-being and performance through the type of work we do, the tools and equipment we procure to do it and who we do it with?

It looks at areas such as:

  • the interaction with people (e.g. patients’ colleagues, carers) and the things we use (e.g. paperwork, computers, wheelchairs, endoscopes, microscopes, telephones, machinery, scalpels, drills, processes, systems, and so on)
  • the work environments in which we use them (e.g. hospital wards, general practice surgeries, administrative offices, operating theatres, clinics, dental surgeries, laboratories and so on).

Human Factors practitioners seek to design work in a way that makes it easier for the goals of work to be achieved. Too often we rely on the human to adapt to poorly designed work and even worse we then blame them for errors resulting from such poor design. Working in (and with) poorly designed systems can have a negative effect on both individuals and organisations. Individuals because they experience symptoms such as higher levels of stress, fatigue, muscoskeletal pain and organisations because a consequence of these effects can be an increase in absenteeism, higher levels of error and poor quality of outcomes.  Like many other safety critical industries such as oil and gas, aviation, transport and nuclear power; health and social care settings are seeking to adopt a human factors approach to the design of our work.

Find out more

Click here for training options for Human Factors.

Useful Links

Five Questions to Ask before Buying Human Factors Training or Consultancy (Steve Shorrock)

The Problem with Professional Appopriation: The Case of 'Human Factors' and Ergonomics (Steve Shorrock)

Always ask the following:

  1. Qualification – Do they have a recognised qualification in HF/E?
  2. Accreditation – Do they have an appropriate level of membership of an HF/E related professional organisation?
  3. Code of Ethics – Do they abide by a code of ethical conduct from an HF/E related society or association?
  4. Experience – Do they have experience in the HF/E work and the domain of interest?
  5. Social recognition – Is the person recognised as an HF/E specialist by other qualified HF/E specialists?

If you have any questons, please do not hesitate to contact us.

There is useful information in the links below.


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