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New lorry design could avoid fatal cycling accidents

Revamping lorry designs to overhaul blind spots in current models could save the lives of hundreds of cyclists and pedestrians every year, according to a new report by Loughborough University. “Blind spots can be a significant factor in fatal accidents with lorries,” said Dr Steve Summerskill, one of the report’s co-authors. “The study shows that the size of these blind spots can be minimised through improved cab design, the reduction of cab height and the addition of extra windows.”

Read the full story.

New guide gives ergonomics advice on cycling

Ergonomics Guide to CyclingIf you are planning to take up cycling for the first time or have just discovered the appeal of bicycles, we have an Ergonomics Guide to Cycling available as a download that could get you thinking.

It summarises some of the issues you need to take into account so that the bike is right for you and some of the safety considerations to take into account. The chances are you will have thought of these points but the guide provides a bit of a checklist and raises a couple of areas that you might not consciously think about. Do you demonstrate situational awareness? Probably, but it will help to know how useful this is and to make sure that you apply this when out on the road.

There is also much more detailed advice for cyclists available on numerous websites and we have highlighted some of these sites in a resources list at the end of an article about cyclists and blind spots.

The impact of human factors on rail, from station refurbishment to the journey experience

David Watts, MD of CCD Design and Ergonomics an IEHF Registered Consultancy, has been interviewed by Rail Professional magazine. He was asked why, in 2014, the Institute of Human Factors and Ergonomics is promoting the use of Human Factors in transport. His answers explain how human factors has an impact on rail station refurbishment, how it can enhance the passenger experience and how it can improve other areas such as ticketing and maintenance. Read his full interview.

The effect of texting on Mario Kart performance

A light-hearted article addresses some real world human factors issues concerning the hypothesis that distracted driving from performing other tasks in the car is a major cause of motor vehicle accidents. Does distracted driving from texting similarly affect Mario Kart performance? Perhaps unsurprisingly, the study concluded that the risk of a crash, driving off the track, and driving backwards among Mario Kart drivers significantly increased with texting, resulting in significantly slower times. All participants were surprised at the effect of texting on their Mario Kart driving performance. See more on this story.

Why do people ignore some red lights and not others?

At a function recently I was sitting next to someone from the railway industry. On hearing that I was an ergonomist she asked me how I would solve the problem of motorists ignoring the flashing red stop light signal at level crossings. My immediate thought was “why do we have a different type of stop signal at level crossings as compared with other stop signals?” Would it be better to have the same kind of stop light there as at other places? Apart from those drivers who continue to cross just as they change to red do many still do so shortly after when a collision is more likely? Has any research been done on this?

Reg Sell

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