Developing universal alert design principles beyond healthcare: A multi-industry analysis

Alerts (or alarms) are a common feature of high-risk environments to alert people of potentially problematic conditions, hazards, or emergent risks. These alerts are often viewed as the last line of defence against error, when potential hazards and risks cannot be ‘designed out’ of a system. To be effective, alerts must communicate their message clearly and reliably. However, research has demonstrated that alerts can be a source of confusion for the people, especially if the system events that have caused the alerts require immediate action. Issues with alerts are a recently established concern in healthcare settings, where human factors research has revealed several factors that prevent a human operator from responding accurately to an alert.

This project aims to answer a critical question not previously investigated: how does alert fatigue manifests across different industries? Following exposure to a high volume of safety or security alerts, users could stop paying attention and so miss or neglect some, most, or all alerts presented. This phenomenon, termed ‘alert fatigue’, is a significant problem for users in a range of industries and has been linked to operator errors, harm and fatalities. This project will provide new evidence on how various alert fatigue manifests across different industries and will thus inform the design of future computerised alerts, ensuring their full security and safety benefits are realised, which would increase health and productivity in Australia. Some key objectives include:

(1) To investigate the manifestation of alert fatigue across different key Australian industries such as healthcare, transport, financial services, law enforcement, and cyber behaviour.

(2) To identify universal human factors design principles that should underpin the alert design to minimise the effects of alert fatigue.

Project team


  • Dr Timothy Graham
  • Dr Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios. QUT
  • Dr Amina Tariq, QUT
  • Dr Toby Miles-Johnson, QUT
  • Professor Dominique Greer, QUT
  • Dr Amanda Beatson, QUT

Project funding

  • IHBI (2019-2020)