The discipline of ergonomics – human centred design
Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific 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. 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. Derived from the Greek ergon (work) and nomos (laws) to denote the science of work, ergonomics is a systems-oriented discipline which now extends across all aspects of human activity. Ergonomics helps harmonize things that interact with people in terms of people’s needs, abilities and limitations. It focusses on fitting tasks to people and people to tasks. Domains of specialisation within the discipline of ergonomics are broadly the following; Physical Ergonomics; Cognitive Ergonomics; Organisational Ergonomics. Ergonomics is a whole of system approach. This approach includes the understanding, relevance and application of anthropometric data and ergonomic guides [eg. safe weights, forces and reach distances]. The ergonomics framework (adapted from Grey, S., Norris, B., & Wilson, J. (1987) includes the people, tasks, equipment, environment, work organisational and company culture. 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.
Many people suffer because their conditions at work and home are incompatible with their needs, abilities and limitations. This situation affects their safety and welfare, as well as, that of organizations and societies. Technology can make our lives more efficient and exciting. However, fascination with technology and overly ambitious business expectations can cause us to overlook human factors risks. Neglecting these risks can have serious effects on manufacturers, suppliers and service enterprises.