Why Safety and Human Factors/Ergonomics Standards Are So Difficult to Establish

Paul Green


This paper summarizes lessons from experience in developing international and national vehicle safety and human factors/ergonomics standards. Based on this experience, problems of (1) meeting organization (failure to follow Robertıs Rules of Order, lack of numbered documents, etc.), (2) committee structure (lack of member expertise, too many members), and (3) inadequate committee support (lack of secretarial support and consultants to prepare materials) are often more important than the technical contributions of members. This paper offers specific suggestions to overcome these problems. Some of these problems occur because safety and human factors/ergonomics expertise and contributions to design can be undervalued.

Further, when standards development organizations lack policies that establish the desired level of safety, technical committees may not be able to agree on the performance requirements and validation procedures for safety and usability standards. Key elements of such policies are the standard of care (the level of protection required, e.g., do no harm) and burden of proof (confidence in the outcome, e.g., safe beyond a reasonable doubt).

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