Ergonomic or Systems Perspective of Human Performance

The Ergonomic Perspective

Also often referred to as the ‘Systems Perspective’. This perspective takes the view that pilot performance is rarely the sole cause of errors or accidents; performance being coupled with other elements like their aircraft and the environment (Wiegmann & Shappell, 2003).

The SHEL and later SHELL models are the most commonly cited ergonomic or systems models. Edwards (1998, cited in Wiegmann & Shappell, 2003) proposes that Software (rules and regulations), Hardware (equipment and other physical assets), the Environment (physical working conditions) and Liveware (humans), do not act in isolation; they interact. Errors occur due to mismatches between elements in the system.

The Ergonomic or Systems Perspective has advantages over other perspectives like the the Cognitive Perspective, firstly because models like the SHEL model are easy to understand, and secondly because they consider context. Therefore there is a greater scope for the development of useful error detection models and hence error prevention methods.

However these models tend to lack real sophistication, and because they focus on interaction between elements, there is a tendency for resulting error mitigation actions to be focused on redesigning pilot-machine interactions to remove errors from the system. A view not widely held by aviation safety experts who feel that social and organisational issues can also be underlying causes of pilot error.

1. WIEGMANN, Douglas, & SHAPPELL, Scott (2003). A human error approach to aviation accident analysis: The Human Factors Analysis and Classification System. Burlington. USA: Ashgate Publishing Company.

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Other Perspectives
An introduction to other perspectives for understanding human performance and error.

Contributors to this page

Authors / Editors

Anthony FryerAnthony Fryer

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