From Academic Kids

Ergonomics (from Greek ergon work and nomoi natural laws) is the study of optimizing the interface between human beings, and the designed objects and environments they interact with.

Wojciech Jastrzębowski first used the word in his article Rys ergonomji czyli nauki o pracy, opartej na prawdach poczerpniętych z Nauki Przyrody in 1857.

In strict usage the term is specific to increasingly productivity, reducing operator fatigue, and improving work environments. In common usage, though, 'ergonomics' can refer to the study of any man-machine interface, whether physiological or psychological.



Common examples include chairs designed to prevent the user from sitting in positions that may have a detrimental effect on the spine, and the ergonomic desk which offers an adjustable keyboard tray, a main desktop of variable height, and other adjustable elements. Adjustability is often a key element of ergonomic design as a tactic to fit the product to a variety of body shapes and sizes.

Ergonomics also helps with the design of alternative computer input devices for people who want to avoid repetitive strain injury or carpal tunnel syndrome. A standard computer keyboard tends to force users to keep their hands together, turn their wrists in an "unnatural" position, and hunch their shoulders. To prevent injury, or to give relief to people who already have symptoms, special split keyboards, curved keyboards, and other alternative input devices exist.

Underlying science

Physical ergonomics rests on the underlying scientific field of anthropometrics (human measurement). Although anthropometrics still has unanswered questions, it's still true that human physical characteristics are predictable and objectively measurable.

Psychological ergonomics explores design issues in terms of cognitive psychology, cognitive workload, human error, the way humans perceive their surroundings and, very importantly, the tasks they choose to undertake. These issues of user experience are less predictable and less objectively measurable.

The commercial usage of the word 'ergonomics' to promote a product does not necessarily mean that any well-researched scientific design solution has been reached. In fact, such scientific design solutions might be inherently contrary to the manufacturer's commercial goals. In her book "The Chair", UC Berkeley Professor Galen Cranz explores the conventional wisdom and social expectations behind chair design, the many challenges of identifying an optimal design based on anthropometrics, and finally comes to the conclusion that the optimal chair shape from the standpoint of improving posture is a backless stool.

Quote about ergonomics

Engineers make things that are useful to people. In collaboration with designers, ergonomists make things that are usable by people. The concept of usability means making artifacts easy, efficient and comfortable to use (anything from a corkscrew to a control room in a nuclear power station). Most people have experience of poorly designed objects. At best they cause frustration and annoyance (for example when a video recorder fails to record your favourite program). At worst they can lead to injury or even death (as in the release of radioactive material from a nuclear reactor).

(Neville A. Stanton and Mark S. Young, Nature, 399, 197 - 198 (20 May 1999))

Manual lifting and handling

The NIOSH Applications Manual for the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation (, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-110, 1994 is a reference in this field.

See also

External links

da:Ergonomi de:Ergonomie es:Ergonoma fr:Ergonomie pl:ergonomia ru:Эргономика ja:人間工学 nl:Ergonomie zh:工效学


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