(Ergon – Work, and Nomos – natural law)

Ergonomics has been driven by our evolving desire to understand human attributes (e.g. size, strength), capabilities and weaknesses, and apply this knowledge to optimise the design of work products and processes. While people have been interested in these topics since the beginning of time, contemporary ergonomics routinely draws on the related sciences of biomechanics, work physiology, human size (anthropometry), occupational psychology, environmental physics and principles of learning.

Definition and Domains of Ergonomics

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.

Practitioners of ergonomics and ergonomists contribute to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, environments and systems in order to make them compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations of people.
Ergonomics helps harmonize things that interact with people in terms of people’s needs, abilities and limitations.

Physical Ergonomics

Physical ergonomics is concerned with human anatomical, anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity. (Relevant topics include working postures, materials handling, repetitive movements, work related musculoskeletal disorders, workplace layout, safety and health.)

The process of ergonomics involves studying the user and studying the job or task, and then designing the work environment (or processes and products) to optimize the userís safety, health, comfort, and performance.

Cognitive Ergonomics

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 design.)

Organizational Ergonomics

Organizational ergonomics is concerned with the optimization of sociotechnical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes. (Relevant topics include communication, crew resource management, work design, design of working times, teamwork, participatory design, community ergonomics, cooperative work, new work paradigms, virtual organizations, telework, and quality management.)

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