Welcome to the world of Ergonomic

Ergonomics is a term thrown around by health professionals and marketing mavens with a cavalier attitude. For some it has a very specific meaning. For others it covers everything under the sun. With all this different verbiage flying at you, you are probably starting to wonder, “What is Ergonomics?”

Definition of Ergonomics

Ergonomics derives from two Greek words: ergon, meaning work, and nomoi, meaning natural laws, to create a word that means the science of work and a person’s relationship to that work.

Human factors or Ergonomics (HF&E) is a multidisciplinary is a field incorporating contributions from psychology, engineering, industrial design, graphic design, statistics, operations research and anthropometry. In essence it is the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body and its cognitive abilities. The two terms “human factors” and “ergonomics” are essentially synonymous.

The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics or human factors as follows:

Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.

According to the International Ergonomics Association within the discipline of ergonomics there exist domains of specialization:

  • Physical ergonomics is concerned with human anatomy, and some of the anthropometric, physiological and bio mechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity
  • Cognitive ergonomics is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system. (Relevant topics include mental workload, decision-making, skilled performance, human-computer interaction, human reliability, work stress and training as these may relate to human-system and Human-Computer Interaction design.)
  • Environmental ergonomics is concerned with human interaction with the environment. The physical environment is characterized by: climate, temperature, pressure, vibration, light.

Ergonomic job design:

Work that is ergonomically designed includes these important elements:

  • Task variety – alternating tasks within a job minimizes repetitive activities and reduces wear and tear on the body
  • Appropriate work pace – when the pace of work is too fast, the body has very little recovery time between repetitive or forceful movements
  • Work breaks – resting, stretching or changing position between tasks helps prevent muscle fatigue and injury
  • Rest breaks – stopping work for a period time during the day provides an important physical and mental break
  • Training and education – acquiring the appropriate skills to do a job safely and efficiently prevents accidents and injury

Ergonomic basics

Many ergonomic solutions are low-tech and common sense – simple changes can make a big difference. Here are some tips to help you improve the ergonomics of your work area:

  • Keep tools, materials, equipment in easy reach
  • Work at proper heights in relation to your body – use adjustable workstations (chairs, tables, platforms)Work in a good, comfortable posture
  • Reduce excessive repetition in tasks and activities
  • Avoid excessively forceful movements – e.g. striking computer keys with too much force, twisting or jerking to lift heavy loads
  • Minimize general fatigue by taking appropriate work and rest breaks
  • Avoid direct pressure on legs, feet and hands
  • Maintain a comfortable environment (heat, light, humidity)Organize work processes efficiently

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