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Ergonomics: Definition, Examples And Areas Of Application

Last modified on 7thFebruary 2020

What is ergonomics? What are good examples of ergonomics and where is it used?

What Is Ergonomics? A Simple Definition

Ergonomics, from the Greek ergon (work) and nόmos (law), is a discipline that studies the interactions between human activity and the components of this activity (tasks, tools, methods, work environment, etc.) to develop systems that allow people to work in conditions of optimal efficiency, safety and comfort.
By extension, ergonomics also designates the qualitative state that results from all the characteristics of optimized system(s). By its very nature, ergonomics draws on the resources of numerous disciplines relating to humans: physiology, psychology, medicine, sociology and anthropology, economics or engineering, among others.

Ergonomics And CSR

As a discipline with notable results in terms of improving well-being at work, ergonomics is in fact a very important part of CSR strategies. As such, it is explicitly listed as one of the recommendations of the ISO 26000 standards.

3 Dimensions Or Ergonomics

Physical Ergonomics

In physical ergonomics, it is mainly physiological interactions of people and their activities that are concerned. Improvements are sought in the fields of posture, body manipulations, carrying heavy weights, movements (especially repetitive ones), the configuration of workstations, safety procedures, and health in general.

Cognitive Ergonomics

Cognitive ergonomics deals with the mental (intellectual and psychological) aspects of the operator-activity relationship: perception, reasoning, memory, stimuli, and psycho-motor responses, etc. The improvements related with cognitive ergonomics have to do with performance issues, decision-making, management mistakes or stress.

Organizational Ergonomics

This type of ergonomics focuses primarily on the structural issues of professional systems: organization of processes and operational regulations. Its privileged contacts are human resources managers. They work in particular on issues related to timetables, working rhythms, modalities of activity (like physical presence vs remote work).

Common Areas Were Ergonomics Is Used

Ergonomics can be applied to all areas of human activity that even go beyond strictly professional circles. Nonetheless, there are some sectors that benefit particularly from the contributions of ergonomics, these are:

  • Safety in transport: every remarkable incident or accident (automobile, train, plane, etc.) leads to a battery of analysis, diagnostic and technological or organizational response processes that end up improving safety conditions and the comfort of drivers, cabin crew and passengers.
  • Competition on the Internet (especially in e-commerce) creates a crazy race for the ergonomics and design of sites and applications.
  • The challenges of sustainable development (see Ergonomics and CSR above) are a major vector of the benefits brought by ergonomics in terms of working conditions.
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