Macroergonomic and sociotechnical methods: current and future directions

Proposers: Michelle Robertson (Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, and Patrick Waterson (Loughborough Design School,

Session type: Symposium

Chairs: Michelle Robertson and Patrick Waterson

Brief description: An important part of the application of macroergonomics and sociotechnical systems theory (STS) is the development of methods, tools and techniques to assess human factors and ergonomic workplace requirements.  The aim of this symposium is to provide a forum in which to discuss the current state of these types of methodologies. The symposium will also cover some of the latest developments within the field and the application of these methods: these include: the description of a participatory planning tool to develop integrated safety and health workplace interventions; gaps in the coverage of theoretical and practical coverage of methods for STS; future opportunities to improve the validity and practicality of methods; the advantage of using mixed methods in macroergonomics research; the methodological challenges and potential future directions for macroergonomics in less structured and variable work domains; and, the advantages of using modelling and simulation methods to gain a better understanding of work domains.  

  • The intervention design and analysis scorecard: A planning tool for participatory design of integrated health and safety interventions in the workplace:  Michelle  Robertson (Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety): A planning tool was developed and tested using a structured participatory approach for engaging front-line employees in the design of integrated health and safety protection and promotion interventions. On the basis of a participatory ergonomics framework, the Intervention Design and Analysis Scorecard (IDEAS) provides a stepwise approach for developing intervention proposals, including root cause(s) analysis and setting evaluation criteria such as scope, obstacles, and cost/benefit trade-offs. The IDEAS was tested at four diverse worksites with trained facilitators. Employees were able to develop and gain management support for integrated interventions at each worksite.  The IDEAS can be used effectively by front-line employees to plan integrated interventions in a program dedicated to continuous improvement of employee health protection/promotion and total worker health.  
  • Trade-offs between generality, validity and practical relevance in the development of Human Factors methods - Patrick Waterson (Loughborough University), Chris Clegg and Mark Robinson (Leeds University Business School): In the presentation we discuss our experiences in developing human factors methods for a variety of purposes (e.g., function allocation, systems development) over the last couple of decades. In particular, we focus on recent discussions centred on the Fitts List (e.g., de Winter and Dodou, 2011)  and accident investigation methods (i.e., the degree to which they are practice-focused, theoretically robust, valid and reliable). We draw on Thorngate’s postulate of commensurate complexity (1976) and its application to the trade-offs involved in developing theory within organizational psychology (e.g., as interpreted in ‘Karl Weick’s clock’) and apply these to method development within human factors. We conclude the presentation with a set of issues for future work (e.g., satisficing trade-offs, using methods in combination, ways of improving research-practice feedback loops). 
  • The use of mixed methods in healthcare human factors research - Pascale Carayon, Sarah Kianfar, Yaqiong Li, Anping Xie, Bashar Alyousef and Abigail Wooldridge (University of Wisconsin-Madison): We conducted a systematic literature review on the use of mixed methods in healthcare human factors research. We will discuss the variety of methods used to collect qualitative and quantitative data, and the various ways that those are mixed at the stages of design, collection, analysis and interpretation. We will present lessons learned for enhancing the impact and quality of healthcare human factors research using formal mixed methods research approaches. 
  • Macroergonomics in the wild: Research challenges in community setting - Richard J. Holden, Amanda McDougald Scott (Vanderbilt University),  Ann S. Hundt, Pascale Carayon and Peter Hoonakker (University of Wisconsin-Madison): The majority of macroergonomic field studies are conducted within institutions or other organized entities such as community programs. I will discuss some of the methodological challenges and potential future directions applying macroergonomics in less structured and more variable community settings, drawing on examples of research in the homes of chronically ill patients.
  • Applying tools and techniques from the study of complex, adaptive systems to workplace safety - Larry Hettinger (Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety) & Arif Jetha (Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety & University of Massachusetts/Lowell): As exemplars of complex sociotechnical systems, contemporary workplaces share many intriguing similarities with natural and social complex, adaptive systems.  We will discuss the major tools and techniques that have been applied to the study of such systems and describe their potential application to the study of factors influencing workplace safety.  Particular attention will be paid to conceptual and computational (i.e., “soft system” and “hard system”) modeling approaches.
21 FEBRUARY 2019