Category Archives: Safety

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HFES 2015 Keynote Address John Nance

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For the remainder of the week we will be featuring post from the HFES 2015 Annual Meeting.

This year’s keynote will be presented by John Nance during the Tuesdaymorning Opening Plenary Session. Nance is a well-known advocate of using the lessons from the recent revolution in aviation safety to revolutionize the patient safety performance of hospitals, doctors, nurses, and others within the health-care domain. His talk, entitled “The Carbon-Based Conundrum,” will deal with the concept that it is only through accepting the inevitability of error that we can eliminate human-caused disasters. As
Nance puts it, “The key to zero disasters is zero denial.”

nutrition facts

Food Labels

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We have a tough tradeoff when designing food labels. Please note that I am not talking about marketing copy or cooking instructions here – just the information regarding contents, safety, and health. On one hand, we would like to give consumers all the information that they want and/or need to make informed choices. But there is only so much room on the label. Even when there is room, we know that consumers are not particularly good at integrating large amounts of information. Rather than risk being confused or overwhelmed, they often just ignore the whole thing and pick whatever their basic emotions prefer – to their own long term detriment.

Alex Jessee, a young mother, went through the “GMO Experience,” one of the four exhibits. She says she learned from it “that these GMOs could be harmful to us, the environment, but they don’t necessarily have to tell us that we’re eating them. Which isn’t very cool.”

traffic light

History of Traffic Signals

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I am happy to share a new theme that we are starting today that will appear now and again on EID. As many of you know, I a big fan of history. It is a cliché to say that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. But there is a lot we can learn from the scientific, legal, and cultural practices of our ancestors as well as from those around the world that our ancestors never even knew existed. That is the notion in which we are going to frame this new history theme.

I was listening to the Dinner Party Download podcast (a fun weekend diversion if you are interested) and I heard this story about the history of traffic lights. The human factors of the original design immediately jumped to mind, even if they didn’t call it by that name back in 1868 when the first gas powered lamps were used or 1914 when they switched to electric.

Kids on Laptop

Child Safety and Digital Devices

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The amount of screen time we are giving our kids has become a controversial topic. In part, this is because both sides have very good arguments. On one hand, it seems that we are better preparing our kids for the digital world that they will face in their professional future if we get them accustomed to and skilled with the use of digital devices early on, when learning is natural and intrinsic. But on the other hand, there are some consequences of this screen time. We worry that our youngest kids are not socializing effectively. And then as they grow older, they encounter new and often more serious consequences.

Excessive use of computer games among young people in China appears to be taking an alarming turn and may have particular relevance for American parents whose children spend many hours a day focused on electronic screens. The documentary “Web Junkie,” to be shown next Monday on PBS, highlights the tragic effects on teenagers who become hooked on video games, playing for dozens of hours at a time often without breaks to eat, sleep or even use the bathroom. Many come to view the real world as fake.

Apple-CarPlay

Smart Car Tech

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I have a feeling that self-driving cars are somewhere in our future, although I won’t hazard a guess as to when. This inevitability stems from the reality that humans are simply not as good drivers as we think we are.

  • We make more mistakes, some of which we never even realize because they don’t result in a crash.
  • We are constantly distracted by thoughts from our lives that intrude into our minds and divert attention from the road.
  • We drive in impaired conditions: overtired, taking medication that warns against “operating heavy machinery”, under the influence of drugs or alcohol, using our smartphone apps and texting, eating, shaving, applying makeup, etc. Pick your poison – you know you do it.
female soldier

Women in Combat Duty

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I heard this story on NPR and had flashbacks to a similar debate we had decades ago with firefighters. And as with that debate, it frustrated me into a lather just as much now as it did then.

“Some people look at it as a civil rights issue,” says Dober. “I will tell you emphatically and to my grave that it’s not a civil rights issue. It’s a national security issue.”

Actually, it’s both.

nutrition facts

Personalized Food Labels

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I have been involved in the design of nutrition labels for over 25 years and it still amazes me that they are not better than they could be, even just given what we already know and even more if we conduct a few well designed human factors studies. So whenever I see a new proposal, I am always eager to check it out.

The FDA has regulated food label nutrition claims such as ‘reduced sodium’ and ‘low fat’ since it began enforcing the Nutritional Label and Education Act in 1994. However, there has yet been no quantitative evidence that the FDA’s definitions of these quantifier terms correspond to consumers’ perceptions of what the terms mean. This study investigated three common quantifier terms used on food labels (reduced, low and free) in relation to four dietary components (fat, sugar, sodium and cholesterol).

oil rig

The New Gold Rush

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In the June issue of Industrial Hygiene and Safety News there is an editorial that presents an interesting confluence of personality, cognition, and safety. This is a special issue on the oil and gas industry and the editorial focuses on the culture of the shale oil industry, which is a remarkable parallel to the gold rush of yore (as well as the real estate boom of the 2000s, but I am still too sensitive about that one to talk about it).

In September, 2014, The Atlantic magazine published a lengthy piece on the Bakken and “the sacrifices Americans endure to find decent work.” It’s the same old story. Mostly young, restless, dissatisfied individuals take stock of their situation and make personal risk assessments.

Kid walking alone

Free Range Parenting

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Kristin van Ogtrop poses a very serious question in her recent column in Time Magazine. There is a large movement to give kids more freedom of action, partially in response to the enormous societal trend to overprotect our kids and to become helicopter parents. I pontificated on this very subject recently here on EID.

Free-rangers are quick to point out that although our society is actually safer than it has ever been (child abductions are incredibly rare, and violent crime has declined nearly 15% in the past decade, according to the FBI), the number of kids suffering from anxiety is skyrocketing