What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics (or human factors) is the 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. (International Ergonomics Association, 2015)
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.
Occupational ergonomics – more than just office based work environments
A common misconception is that ergonomics only relates to the office based work environment and the setup of individual workstations. However, ergonomists apply valuable ergonomics skills across a broad range of work environments, products and systems from manufacturing environments to logistics and safety critical industry.
Furthermore, the term ergonomic has also been applied to a multitude of products with some being called an ergo mouse or an ergonomic chair for example. However, quite often these labels are used inappropriately by manufacturers who are trying to market and sell products as opposed to the actual product being designed with professional ergonomics expertise.
How occupational ergonomics can improve organisational performance, health and efficiency?
Ergonomics can be applied across multiple areas of an organisation and some key areas are as follows:
- Auditing existing systems and processes to ensure they are effective and optimally managing risk
- Assisting with the design of new products to ensure they match user requirements and minimise safety risk
- Providing advice on the redesign of existing products and / or workplaces
- Assessing physical, cognitive and environmental workload demands and matching these to employee’s functional work capacity
- Designing enhanced systems and processes, such fitness for work assessments, that are based on context and task specific requirements and better manage risk.
What benefits can I expect from ergonomics intervention?
- Improved employee well being and satisfaction
- Significant return on investment
- Increased staff and organisational performance and efficiency
- Reduced likelihood of workplace injuries, illnesses and / or claims
- Better overall management of occupational health and safety risk
- Reduced likelihood of health and safety investigation / prosecution
- Improved client and public perception