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Casey, Steven 1952- (Steven Michael Casey)

Casey, Steven 1952- (Steven Michael Casey)

PERSONAL:

Born 1952. Education: Attended University of California and North Carolina State University; received Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Ergonomic Systems Design, Inc., 5290 Overpass Rd., Ste. 105, Santa Barbara, CA 93111.

CAREER:

Ergonomic Systems Design, Inc., Santa Barbara, CA, president and principal scientist. Has worked in the United States, Canada, England, France, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, and Japan.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Has twice received Alexander C. Williams, Jr., Award for outstanding human factors design contributions; recipient of numerous BusinessWeek/IDEA Gold Awards for product design.

WRITINGS:

Developing Effective User Documentation: A Human Factors Approach, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1988.

Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error, Aegean (Santa Barbara, CA), 1993, 2nd edition, 1998.

The Atomic Chef: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error, Aegean (Santa Barbara, CA), 2006.

SIDELIGHTS:

Steven Casey is president and chief scientist at Ergonomic Systems Design, Inc. He specializes in machines and techniques that make technology easier (and safer) for people to use. His books Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error and The Atomic Chef: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error tell stories drawn from his specialty field, emphasizing how the lack of understanding of how machines function—or poor concept design—can lead to catastrophic operator errors. In Set Phasers on Stun, wrote Greg Ross in an interview with Casey published in the American Scientist, "he collected 20 true cautionary tales that illustrated the real costs of human error in settings from cockpits to passenger ferries." In The Atomic Chef, Ross continued, "Casey presents another score of stories about the ‘surprising yet foreseeable events’ that can arise due to a misleading gauge, an awkward workspace, poor maintenance or an ill-defined procedure. Very often the outcome is death, even though the machines involved are working properly as designed." Casey presents these ideas in straightforward language that makes his text very accessible to readers, concluded Steve Thompson in his Auto Week review. "Casey eschews jargon-filled analysis, so the reader can piece together the puzzle of causal factors for him or herself. This makes reading his book something like reading a mystery story, and encourages the reader to think about, rather than merely react, to the tales."

One example of the tragic consequences of poor design, which Casey relates in The Atomic Chef, is the death of singer and songwriter John Denver. On October 12, 1997, Denver was flying an experimental aircraft off the Monterey coast when it suddenly plunged into the water, killing the pilot. Subsequent examination showed that the aircraft had been modified from its original configuration by a previous owner. A fuel tank lever had been moved from the front of the cockpit to the rear and, said Scott Shappell in an American Scientist review of Casey's book, "the changed location and orientation of the valve meant that now the pilot was required to engage the autopilot, let go of the control stick with his right hand, twist around and reach over his left shoulder for the valve handle, and then move it to the right to draw fuel from the left tank, down to draw fuel from the right tank, or straight up to stop the flow altogether." Investigators hypothesized that Denver hit a rudder pedal while twisting in his seat to operate the changed fuel lever—with fatal results. The Atomic Chef also makes the point that, if design allows human error to occur, eventually the worst will happen. "The airplane may be structurally sound, the hospital equipment may be cutting-edge, the army's GPS may be state-of-the-art," wrote Rob Mitchell in ForeWord Magazine; "but if the pilot, the doctor, or the soldier is distracted, casual, or confused, design-induced human error can and will happen."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Scientist, November, 1993, review of Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error, p. 588; March 1, 2007, "Murphy's Law in Action," p. 182.

AutoWeek, November 13, 2006, Steve Thompson, "The Atomic Chef and a Bad Tamagotchi," p. 11.

ONLINE

American Scientist,http://www.americanscientist.org/ (February 18, 2008), Greg Ross, "Author Interview: The Bookshelf Talks with Steven Casey."

ForeWord Magazine,http://www.forewordmagazine.com/ (February 18, 2008), Rob Mitchell, review of The Atomic Chef: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error.

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