Monthly Archives: January 2014

Aviation safety magazine available

EUROCONTROL’s winter edition of HindSight magazine is out now. The award-winning aviation safety magazine features articles from a range of safety and human factors specialists, legal specialists, air traffic controllers and pilots. Contributors to the latest edition on ‘Justice and Safety’ include Professor Sidney Dekker, Professor Erik Holnagel, Dr Steven Shorrock, Toni Licu, Tom Lintner and Captain Ed Pooley. The whole issue can be downloaded free at or as separate articles at

Could human factors help cyclists in London?

Recently there have been a number of news stories relating to the deaths of cyclists in London. This is tragic but the news stories seem to be determined to blame either cyclist, drivers or both. However, no one has thought to consider the problem from a human factors perspective.

As human factors is a systems discipline we might like to think about how to solve the problem at an incremental level. One way to do so would be to apply a systems model, say Vicente’s Human-tech ladder, to guide the analysis and development of the situation as this promotes consideration at physical, psychological, team, organisational, and political levels. Naturally not all these are necessary, we might exclude team and organisational level, yet the remaining categories raise some interesting thoughts.

What physical aspects can be considered to improve the current situation? The physical infrastructure of cycle lanes, the physical safety of cyclists (development of helmet, reflective clothing), vehicles safety features?

Above this there are psychological factors. How can we make wearing a helmet for cyclist a habitual process? How can we educate and alter driver behaviour to be more vigilant towards cyclists? How can we create attitudes of sharing towards road space and modes of transport?

In order to achieve this there needs to be a catalyst, arguably from the political environmental. For example, can funding be given to encourage R&D in physical aspects of road safety? Can there be government campaigns to increase the awareness to address psychological aspects?

This is a very simplified view point of how human factors could be used to consider the problem and at a systems level. This perhaps might make the problem more manageable as organisations can work on specific aspects (physical and psychological), with the help from the political landscape.

I have not provided any solutions, merely ways of thinking about the problem. Let’s hope the benefit of human factors can be seen by the broader community to help tackle what is likely to be a topic of debate over the next few years, particularly as cycling has benefits for both the environment and health.

Dr Jamie Mackrill, Research Fellow, WMG, University of Warwick, UK

Police vehicles made more conspicuous through ergonomic design

Police car liveryPolice vehicles on motorways need to be distinctive for safety and security reasons and the blue and yellow ‘Battenburg’ livery now being used by police forces across the country is underpinned by high quality ergonomics research.

This research has been recognised for its excellence by the presentation of the Ergonomics Design Award to ergonomists from Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University.

This is the first nationwide livery to be adopted for police vehicles and motorcycles and was developed according to strict criteria set by the Home Office. Driving is a complex and dynamic task, so it is critical that motorists see police vehicles as soon as possible, particularly as they could be engaged in an emergency operation. Therefore, the livery had to be conspicuous both day and night and in all weather conditions because high visibility not only reassures the public and deters criminals but it also enhances officer and public safety.

To read more on this story, visit the IEHF website.

The changing face of signalling

In the early days of the railways many routes were single track and there was a problem in that signalmen were liable to forget they already had a train on a section of track and would release another one on to the same stretch of track. This was remedied by fitting each signal lever with a label saying “train on line” which the signalman would place over the lever when he had accepted a train on that stretch. However, the signalman was a part of the communication system and was quite likely to forget to put the label on when a call would come through before he placed the label.

This was remedied by having a system whereby each train on a single stretch of line had to have a physical token allowing it to travel on a section of line. There were a limited number of tokens and only one was allowed to be out of the holding box at any one time. These can still be seen in use on heritage railways today.

With modern railway systems, signallers are responsible for much greater lengths of line but have track circuit diagrams to tell them where all the trains under their control are and computer assistance to enable them to manage a more complicated system.

Reg Sell