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About Ergonomics

Human factors (or ergonomics) is about fit: the fit between people, the activities they perform, the products they use and the environments they work, travel or play in.

A key principle is on placing greater emphasis on designing those environments, working practices, and products in accordance to the needs, abilities and limitations of people.

If a good fit is achieved, the stresses on people are reduced, the environment is more comfortable, tasks can be completed more quickly and easily, and fewer mistakes get made.


A diagram illustrating the benefits of ergonomics


A Systems Approach

"Human factors is the scientific discipline that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.

International Ergonomics Association (IEA)

Ergonomics is a systems-oriented discipline which now applies to all aspects of human activity. The term ‘system’ in IEA’s definition represents not just to the physical or technical system that people interact with but also to the social and organisational system.

Three key domains of specialisation in ergonomics exist, as described on the IEA website, which represent deeper competencies in specific human attributes or characteristics of human interaction:

  • 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.)
  • 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 is concerned with the optimization of sociotechnical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes.