Margining philosophies & human health & safety

Idk if this is a STEM workplace thing but lack of “human performance” margins in everyday work is so pervasive

It’s esp silly in space science bc we spend so much attention/effort on project margins – technical/schedule/cost

But culturally that doesn’t translate to accessible workplace cultures

It’s like humans are expected to not need margins like objects we build do

In system engineering there are whole philosophies of well margined projects for safety & performance. But we don’t seem to apply that logic nearly enough to ppl on the ground tho there is some consideration of this for astronauts

Whether it’s scheduling long lab shifts, expecting overtime work, expecting nonstandard hours, even stuff like not building in adequate break times during meetings or skipping breaks if running late

& when health & safety considerations for earth based employees do come into play, they seem based on hidden assumptions abt “standard” human functional limits

For example, my last job as a JPL contractor was as a systems test engineer & the main health & safety consideration was we couldn’t be in the lab longer than 12 hrs. Which didn’t count any time we’d spent at work that day outside of lab.

Bc the labs were cleanrooms, we also couldn’t eat or drink inside which isn’t usually a big deal bc you can step outside for that or going to the bathroom, except there was a lot of emphasis on transitioning to solo lab shifts & then you couldn’t just leave in the middle of a test & some tests couldn’t be paused – there were often hours long stretches of time where pausing a test would mean hours of work to get it running again. 

This could be easily avoided by continuing the “buddy system” for shifts but since it costs more to require 2 ppl on each shift, the focus is on training ppl to do solo shifts as fast as possible. Instead of considering human functional limits to have variance & that proper margining philosophy would dictate accounting for that & just generally having higher margins for worker wellbeing & not assuming peak performance from everyone at all times. Tho ofc being able to go for hours without food, water or bathroom shouldn’t be a job expectation anyway.

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