1966 and All That: Trends and Developments 1956-1974 within UK Ergonomics

Development of ergonomics in the UK between 1956 and 1974

The 1960s represents a key decade in the expansion of ergonomics within the UK. This paper reviews trends and developments that emerged out of the 1960s and compares these with ergonomics research and practice today. The focus in particular is on the expansion of ergonomics as a discipline within industry, as well as more specific topics, such as the emergence of areas of interest, for example, computers and technology, automation and systems ergonomics and consumer ergonomics. The account is illustrated with a detailed timeline of developments, a set of industrial case studies and the contents of important publications during the decade. A key aim of the paper is to provide the opportunity to reflect on the past and the implications this may have for future directions for ergonomics within the UK.

The paper provides practitioners with an insight into the development of ergonomics in the UK during one of the most important decades of its history. This is especially relevant given the fact that in 2009 the Ergonomics Society celebrates its 60th anniversary.


The quote from the Italian writer Italo Calvino was made during a debate held on ‘industry and literature’ at the beginning of the 1960s. Calvino sums up what were to become dominant themes in later accounts of the period, namely, the growth of automation and the increasing role played by technology within society. Both of these themes are important within ergonomics and continue today as sources of debate in research and practical applications of the subject. Similarly, many issues have declined in interest or relevance as compared to 40 years ago. Much has been written about the origins of ergonomics, alongside other discussions centred around pioneers within ergonomics and the future of the discipline (e.g. Frederic Bartlett). By comparison, little detailed information is available covering specific periods within the development of ergonomics. This paper focuses on the 1960s within UK ergonomics for a number of reasons. First, the 1960s can be seen as a mid-point between the immediate post-war roots and birth of ergonomics and its subsequent development into a fully fledged discipline. Second, during the 1960s, ergonomics became firmly established within industry and made firm steps towards closer engagement with civil, government and industrial users and practitioners. The late Brian Shackel (1927–2007), in a paper written to celebrate the 50th anniversary of ergonomics within EMI, viewed the period as a bridge between earlier work on military ergonomics and a later focus on consumer ergonomics in the 1970s.

In 2009 the UK Ergonomics Society celebrates its 60th anniversary. It seems timely and appropriate to stand back and review trends and developments over the period and compare these with present day ergonomics.

Taylor and Francis Ergonomics Ken Eason developments 1956 1974 within uk ergonomics

Taylor and Francis Publication Link

WATERSON P. AND EASON K.D. 1966 and All That: Trends and Developments 1956-1974 within UK Ergonomics. Ergonomics 52(11) 1323-1341

Ergonomic Interventions in the Implementation of New Technical Systems

Opportunities for ergonomic and human factors in new technical systems

One of the most frequent sources of change in working life is the implementation of new technology. This can have many implications for the work system. There will be an immediate need for staff to acquire new skills and there may be potentially far-reaching effects on jobs and the way work is organised. There are many opportunities for ergonomic and human factors (E/HF) interventions, but what can be achieved depends on the way the new technology is implemented. This chapter examines the different strategies by which new technology is implemented into the workplace and their implications for E/HF interventions.

Technocentric Implementation Strategies

The prevailing approach to technical system implementation has bene described as ‘technocentric’ or ‘technology push’ (Balham 1993, Eason 1993). In this approach the objective is seen in entirely technical terms: to design or purchase a complete technical system, to install the equipment, get it ‘up and running’ and train the users in its correct usage. If therein recognition that there may be wider ramifications for the work system, this is often framed as ‘resistance to change’ on the part of the workforce and is to be overcome by such mechanisms as appointing ‘user champions’ to act as persuaders and using industrial relations procedures to deal with disputes.

Evaluation Human Work Ken Eason Ergonomics New Technical Systems

Google Books Link

Eason K.D. Ergonomic Interventions in the Implementation of New Technical Systems. In Wilson J. and Sharples S. (eds) Evaluation of Human Work 4th Edition, Taylor and Francis 837-853

People and Computers: Emerging Work Practice in the Information Age

A chapter in the book ‘Psychology at Work’ reviewing the impact of information technology on work practice and the link between people and work


Psychology at work Ken Eason People and computers emerging work practice in the information age

Amazon Book Link

EASON K.D. People and Computers: Emerging Work Practice in the Information Age. In P.B.Warr (ed) ‘Psychology at Work’ Penguin, London, 5th Edition pp 77-99 ISBN 0-14-100010-4

Consumer Behaviour of Employees Using Information & Communications Technology Products in an Organizational Setting

Human Factors and Ergonomics in Consumer Product Design: Uses and Applications

Every day we interact with thousands of consumer products. We not only expect them to perform their functions safely, reliably, and efficiently, but also to do it so seamlessly that we don’t even think about it. However, with the many factors involved in consumer product design, from the application of human factors and ergonomics principles to reducing risks of malfunction and the total life cycle cost, well, the process just seems to get more complex. Edited by well-known and well-respected experts, the two-volumes of Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics in Consumer Product Design simplify this process.

The second volume, Human Factors and Ergonomics in Consumer Product Design: Uses and Applications, discusses challenges and opportunities in the design for product safety and focuses on the critical aspects of human-centered design for usability. The book contains 14 carefully selected case studies that demonstrate application of a variety of innovative approaches that incorporate Human Factor and Ergonomics (HF/E) principles, standards, and best practices of user-centered design, cognitive psychology, participatory macro-ergonomics, and mathematical modeling. These case studies also identify many unique aspects of new product development projects, which have adopted a user-centered design paradigm as a way to attend to user requirements.

The case studies illustrate how incorporating HF/E principles and knowledge in the design of consumer products can improve levels of user satisfaction, efficiency of use, increase comfort, and assure safety under normal use as well as foreseeable misuse of the product. The book provides a comprehensive source of information regarding new methods, techniques, and software applications for consumer product design.

Chapter: ‘Consumer Behaviour of Employees Using Information & Communications Technology Products in an Organisational Setting’ introduces the idea of seeing workers as consumers of IT

“Perhaps the most interesting chapter, though, is Ken Eason’s which makes a compelling case for regarding employees at work in an organisational setting as consumers of IT products.” – Gordon Baxter

Link to Review on Taylor and Francis Site

Human Factors Ergonomic Product Design Ken Eason Information & Communications Technology

Amazon Book Link

Google Books Link

EASON K. D. Consumer behaviour of employees using information and communications technology products in an organizational setting. In ‘Human Factors and Ergonomics in Consumer Product Design: Uses and Applications’ Eds. W. Karwowski, M. M. Soares and N. A. Stanton, CRC Press, Boca Raton p241- 253

Understanding the Organisational Ramifications of Implementing Information Technology Systems

Handbook of Human-Computer Interaction (Second Edition)

Publisher Summary:
Information technology is a major force for organizational change. Every organization that applies the technology experiences organizational ramifications. This chapter charts the development of different models of organizational effects over a 40-year period. During the 1960s and 1970s, many studies of organizational impact were undertaken that produced conflicting results. As a result, a contingency model of computer impact emerged that accounted for the different impacts by reference to different forms of technology and application. In the last decade, it has become clear that this is also an inadequate model because it does not allow for the active nature of organizations that act to shape the impact of the technology. The chapter examines nine case studies to explore the processes by which organizational impact takes place. The active manner in which these processes operate is summarized in model three. This is an organizational assimilation model in which the three sub-systems of an enterprise interact and create outcomes in each sub-system. The chapter ends with a review of the many methods now available to support this approach and outlines the need for organizational stakeholders to play significant roles in new system developments.

Human Computer Interaction User Centred Design Organisational Impact Information Technology

Google Books Link

Science Direct Link

Eason K. D. (1997) Understanding the organisational ramifications of implementing information technology systems. In ‘Handbook of Human-computer interaction’ M.G. Hollander, T.K. Landeaur and P.V. Prabhu (eds) , Amsterdam, Elsevier

DOI Link