4

Work environments

In manufacture and in handicrafts, the worker uses a tool; in the factory, he serves a machine.

Karl Marx, 1867, Das Kapital

The life-efficiency and adaptability of the computer must be questioned. Its judicious use depends upon the availability of its human employers quite literally to keep their own heads, not merely to scrutinise the programming but to reserve for themselves the right of ultimate decision. No automatic system can be intelligently run by automatons—or by people who dare not assert human intuition, human autonomy, human purpose.

Lewis Mumford, 1970, The Myth of the Machine

One of the components of both the SHEL (software, hardware, environment, liveware) and the user-centred design model is ‘environment’. In its narrowest sense, this covers the immediate environment of the user, i.e. the workspace, but can be extended to encompass a number of social and organisational issues, e.g. job design and management structure. Work environments defined here will be interpreted broadly to take into account physical, social, cultural and organisational factors, although this chapter will focus on physical parameters. It is correspondingly also possible to interpret ‘work’ very broadly in the sense that it ‘can be any form of meaningful activity—running a home, bringing up children, voluntary, sheltered or paid employment’ (Herbert, 2000:25). However, the main premise being suggested here is that it is impossible to consider Human Factors and ergonomic issues in isolation, e.g. the design of the human-machine interface alone. It has already been established in Chapter 3 that human-machine interactions will be influenced by a number of environmental and other factors. Therefore, we cannot consider workplace design, for example, without taking into account the attitude of the organisation to flexibility in catering for individual needs. Further, the design of work environments also has important implications with regard to performance, comfort, safety and the reduction of hazards. These are covered in Chapter

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Designing for Humans
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables viii
  • Figures ix
  • Preface x
  • Acknowledgements xiii
  • 1 - Human Factors 1
  • 2 - Humans: Capabilities and Limitations 20
  • 3 - Human-Machine Interaction 38
  • 4 - Work Environments 70
  • 5 - Organisational Issues 97
  • 6 - Occupational Health 118
  • 7 - Safety 137
  • Epilogue 163
  • References 166
  • Author Index 202
  • Subject Index 207
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