Fitting methods to paradigms: are ergonomics methods fit for systems thinking?

Paul M. Salmon, Guy H Walker, Gemma J. M. Read, Natassia Goode, Neville A. Stanton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

106 Citations (Scopus)
485 Downloads (Pure)


The issues being tackled within ergonomics problem spaces are shifting. Although existing paradigms appear relevant for modern day systems, it is worth questioning whether our methods are. This paper asks whether the complexities of systems thinking, a currently ubiquitous ergonomics paradigm, are outpacing the capabilities of our methodological toolkit. This is achieved through examining the contemporary ergonomics problem space and the extent to which ergonomics methods can meet the challenges posed. Specifically, five key areas within the ergonomics paradigm of systems thinking are focused on: normal performance as a cause of accidents, accident prediction, system migration, systems concepts and ergonomics in design. The methods available for pursuing each line of inquiry are discussed, along with their ability to respond to key requirements. In doing so, a series of new methodological requirements and capabilities are identified. It is argued that further methodological development is required to provide researchers and practitioners with appropriate tools to explore both contemporary and future problems. Practitioner Summary: Ergonomics methods are the cornerstone of our discipline. This paper examines whether our current methodological toolkit is fit for purpose given the changing nature of ergonomics problems. The findings provide key research and practice requirements for methodological development.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date22 Jan 2016
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 22 Jan 2016


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