What is Ergonomics?

What is Ergonomics and How is it Applied in Various Fields

Ergonomics is an applied science of equipment design that aims at maximizing the productivity of the employees by ensuring that the devices and systems used at the workplace are designed in such a way that they reduce fatigue and the risk of injuries. This article provides more information on the importance of this science and its application.
WellnessKeen Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
The word 'ergonomics' has been derived from two Greek words called ergon and nomos. While the former means work, the latter means laws. It literally means 'laws of work.' It is also a science of designing the job and the physical working conditions in such a way that it suits the worker, rather than forcing him to fit into the job.

The primary concern of this system is the interaction between the worker and the working environment. It is recommended that the design of the working area should include the workplace safety aspects as well as the productive work environment. The International Ergonomics Association defines it technically as a scientific discipline pertaining to the interaction between the humans and the other elements of the system, and the profession, data, methods and principles to improve the system performance and ensure the well-being of humans.

Different Fields
  • Engineering Psychology: It works on the relationship between human and machines and makes a continuous effort to improve the relation. This might include changing the location of the workplace, modifying the ways of using a machine or redesigning the equipment. In short, the main goal of engineering psychology is to make the machines 'user-friendly' for the workers.
  • Macro-Ergonomics: It works on a wider aspect and emphasizes more on the organizational environment, history, goal, culture and design. It concentrates more on the physical design and the surrounding environment. Its aim is to set an efficient work system and consequently improve the employee satisfaction, safety, health, and productivity in the organization or workplace.
There is more to this concept than this. Apart from all these fields, this technology can be divided further into physical, cognitive, and organizational ergonomics based on its principles.

Main Principles
  • Physical Ergonomics: It is concerned with the interaction of the body with the equipment and the tools, starting right from the chair to the computer. It also studies its effect on the body, for example, repetitive disorder, workplace safety, health and layout, musculoskeletal disorder and posture.
  • Cognitive Ergonomics: It emphasizes the ways of information processing by the mind and its presentation. It is related to the motor function, workload, decision-making and memory-usage. This helps in understanding the interaction and relation of the human mind with the data presentation.
  • Organizational Ergonomics: It works on complete optimization of the workplace, right from quality management to teamwork. It includes managing everything in the organization to make it a better place to work.
Nowadays, this concept has become a part and parcel of any organization or workplace. Developed countries like the United States have a special government body called the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) that enforces laws related to workplace ergonomics. At workplace, this concept is concerned with making the environment comfortable and healthier, and above all, getting the maximum returns from the investment made on the human resource. When followed at a workplace, it ensures that the body does not face any discomfort in relation to the posture and the position, which might become a reason for distraction.

The goal of this applied science is to design the work space and equipment in such a way that it fits physical capabilities and limitations of the employees, thereby lowering the risk of health problems and injuries linked to bad posture and repeated stress. It has a wide application and its importance can be felt in number of fields.