Human Factors and Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the branch of engineering and design that prioritizes user comfort and safety by accounting for their unique mental and physical limitations. Human factors education, which emphasizes the relationship between humans and technological systems, aims to lessen the likelihood of mistakes, boost output, make systems more secure and reliable, and make them more comfortable to use. Psychology, sociology, science, ergonomics, systems engineering, physiology, anthropometry, information architecture, graphic design, user experience, and user interface design are just a few of the fields that come together to make this a broad topic. In order to better understand human behavior and collect data helpful for the four aims mentioned above, human factors research draws upon the methods and approaches of these and other knowledge domains.

What are Human Factors and Ergonomics?

The goals of workplace health, safety, and productivity can be attained with the help of human factors. It is important to ensure that things like furniture and machine interfaces are secure and straightforward. Repetitive stress injuries and other musculoskeletal problems are preventable with thoughtful ergonomic design, but they can cause pain and impairment if left untreated. Human factors and ergonomics aim to optimize the interaction between worker, tool, and surrounding environment, sometimes known as "fitting a job to a person" or "fitting the task to the man." The user's skills and limitations are considered so that the user's tasks, functions, information, and environment are all made to fit the user's needs.

Domains of Specialization

Physical ergonomics, cognitive ergonomics, and organizational ergonomics are the three primary subfields of research that fall under the discipline of ergonomics. Within each of these more general categories, there are several highly specialized subfields. It is worthwhile to conduct research into visual ergonomics, which is a subset of physical ergonomics. Cognitive ergonomics comprises a wide variety of specialized subfields, some of which include usability, the human-computer interface, and user experience engineering. It is conceivable to have information that can be classified into more than one of these major categories, including but not limited to the following: In the study of environmental ergonomics, factors such as the weather, temperature, pressure, vibration, and lighting are taken into consideration.

It is estimated that human error is to blame for 44% of all fatal collisions in the United States. As a result, it is critical to discuss how people who use roads acquire and apply knowledge about those roads and their surroundings to make sound decisions. In what seems like a never-ending stream, brand-new terms are being coined. There is such a thing as a "user trial engineer," which is just another name for human factors engineer. If you are an expert in user trials, you might be called a "user trial engineer." Experts in human factors, often known as "ergonomists," ensure that new equipment, processes, and procedures consider the comfort, health, and safety of the people using them. This helps ensure that users will be more productive.

Physical Ergonomics

To reduce the likelihood of acute and chronic musculoskeletal injuries and disorders in the workplace, the discipline of physical ergonomics analyses how the human body interacts with its many physical activities, considering factors such as anthropometrics and physiology. Physical and ergonomic principles are used in various consumer and industrial products. Localized mechanical loads, force, and posture in a stationary work environment are all risk factors for workplace injuries. People with health problems like arthritis (both chronic and acute) and carpal tunnel syndrome might benefit from adopting ergonomic practices at work. Many ergonomically developed products are now used or recommended to alleviate chronic pain and other ailments because even slight pressure can be unpleasant or render a gadget unusable for individuals with a sensitivity issue.

Cognitive Ergonomics

Cognitive ergonomics aims to understand how human cognitive functions like perception, temperament, emotion, reasoning, and movement response impact human interactions between humans and systems. (Applicable topics include designing for human and computer interaction, which includes cognitive load, decision making, expert performance, mortal dependability, workplace stress, and education and training.) Epidemiological research has linked sitting for extended periods to poor mental health outcomes like depression and low mood.

Organizational Ergonomics and Safety Culture

Ergonomics in the workplace seeks to improve the form, function, and operation of complex social and technological systems. Some examples of applicable themes are crew strategic planning, work design, work systems, the architecture of working times, collaboration, participatory ergonomics, communal ergonomics, cooperative work, future work programs, virtual organizations, alternative work, and process improvement. Tolerance for ambiguity and separation of powers are two aspects of a company's safety culture that contribute to an environment conducive to safe engineering practices. To reduce the risk of injury, keep your distance from high-power sources. Organizations with a poor safety culture tend to be secretive and lack empathy.

Policy Implementation

Employers and workers face costs, time, and effort to improve sedentary workers' ergonomics. The above research establishes the importance of ergonomics in a sedentary workplace, yet enforcement and policy implementation still need to be improved. Due to a greater reliance on technology, many modern professional vocations involve lengthy periods of sitting; therefore, steps must be taken to avoid chronic diseases and pain. Recent studies on ergonomic equipment have shown encouraging outcomes, making this less difficult and saving business costs through reduced absenteeism and workers' compensation claims. Businesses may prioritize worker health benefits through policy and behavior

There are no national cultural policies, but several significant corporations and states have implemented them. Nevada's risk management division has regulated how government agencies and employees should communicate. The company is responsible for workplace evaluations, risk management, and OSHA paperwork. Some studies interpret metrics about how users interact with interfaces as a commitment to quality, despite an ambiguous link.

A Brief History of Human Factors and Ergonomics

One may argue that HF/E has existed since the dawn of human tool usage. Concern about discovering ways to operate more effectively was developed when people formed tools. However, the present scientific basis of these research fields only emerged much later. The word "ergonomics" was invented by the Polish scholar Jastremboswki in his 1857 dissertation "An Outline of Ergonomics or the Science of Work Based Upon the Truths Drawn from the Science of Nature." Later, the English scientist Murrell would recreate the word ergonomics as part of the formation of the Ergonomics Society of Great Britain, one of the world's oldest scientific organizations. As a study and practice, Ergonomics has traditionally been concerned with human interaction with physical labor.

Studies in time-and-motion research and industrial fatigue are the oldest expressions of ergonomic concern, emerging from societal concerns for industrial worker safety and productivity around the beginning of the twentieth century. To prevent workplace damage and injury, ergonomic practitioners now work directly with specialists in systems safety, industrial engineering, industrial hygiene, and occupational medicine. They work together to avoid or mitigate the negative consequences of hazardous workplace environments and inadequate physical work designs. Physical ergonomists work on issues such as manual material handling, slips and falls, and repetitive strain trauma, which are addressed by organizations such as the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the United States, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the United Kingdom, and the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Switzerland.

The historical roots of ergonomics may be found mostly in countries highlighting the necessity of safe working conditions. It is hardly surprising, then, that ergonomics has historically been thought to be of European origin. Etienne Grandjean, a Swiss physicist, wrote one of the classic works, 'Fitting the Task to the Man.' Many important European scientific and professional organizations still use the term "ergonomics" in their titles. Indeed, the term ergonomics is used by various research groups worldwide, including the International Ergonomics Association (IEA).


Field methods are important because they are conducted in the users' natural surroundings but have limits.

  • Methods take more time and resources.

  • High planning, recruiting, and execution compared to other techniques

  • Longer study periods necessitate participant goodwill.

  • Longitudinal studies can experience attrition.


Human factor/ ergonomics helps build systems that protect employees and the environment by considering how people and machines depend on each other and how small changes to a system's architecture can have big effects on other parts of the system.

Updated on: 06-Jan-2023


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