Ergonomics, also called human factors, is the process of designing or arranging environments such as workplaces, products and systems so that they fit the people who use them. This applies to the design of anything that involves people – workspaces, sports and leisure, health and safety.

The goal of human factors is to reduce human error, increase productivity, and enhance safety and comfort with a specific focus on the interaction between the human and the thing of interest. It is not simply changes or amendments to the work environment but encompasses theory, methods, data and principles all applied in the field of ergonomics.

Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements and environments and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design to optimize human well-being and overall performance. So as technologies change, so too does the need to ensure that the tools we access for work, rest and play are designed for our body’s requirements.

Ergonomics is a relatively new branch of science which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1999, but relies on research carried out in many other older, established scientific areas, such as engineering, physiology and psychology.

To achieve best practice design, Ergonomists use the data and techniques of several disciplines:

  • anthropometry: body sizes, shapes; populations and variations
  • biomechanics: muscles, levers, forces, strength
  • environmental physics: noise, light, heat, cold, radiation, vibration body systems: hearing, vision, sensations
  • applied psychology: skill, learning, errors, differences
  • social psychology: groups, communication, learning, behaviours.


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