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How do you use ergonomics?

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Introduction

What is ergonomics? Most people have heard of ergonomics and think it is something to do with seating or with the design of car controls and instruments. It is...but it is much more! Ergonomics is the application of scientific information concerning humans to the design of objects, systems and environment for human use. Ergonomics comes into everything which involves people. Work systems, sports and leisure, health and safety should all embody ergonomics principles if well designed. How do you use ergonomics? Ergonomics incorporates elements from many subjects including anatomy, physiology, psychology and design. Ergonomists apply their diverse knowledge to ensure that products and environments are comfortable, safe and efficient for people to use. What is 'ergonomic design'? Ergonomic design is a way of considering design options to ensure that people's capabilities and limitations are taken into account. This helps to ensure that the product is fit for use by the target users. Ergonomics Why is the video recorder one of the most frustrating domestic items to operate? Why do some car seats leave you aching after a long journey? Why do some computer workstations confer eyestrain and muscle fatigue? Such human irritations and inconveniences are not inevitable - ergonomics is an approach which puts human needs and capabilities at the focus of designing technological systems. ...read more.

Middle

The second key ingredient is to understand the users. For example, 'consumer ergonomics' covers applications to the wider contexts of the home and leisure. In these non-work situations the need to allow for human variability as at its greatest - the people involved have a very wide range of capabilities and limitations (including the disabled and elderly), and seldom have any selection or training for the tasks which face them. This commitment to 'human-centred design' is an essential 'humanizing' influence on contemporary rapid developments in technology, in contexts ranging from the domestic to all types of industry. David Whitfield and Joe Langford From Blakemore C and Jennett S (eds) The Oxford Companion to the Body (Oxford University Press, 2001). Reprinted by kind permission of Oxford University Press. For further information about OUP publications, visit www.oup.com. The origins of ergonomics Ergonomics is a relatively new branch of science which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1999, but relies on research carried out in many other older, established scientific areas, such as engineering, physiology and psychology. It originated in World War 2, when scientists designed advanced new and potentially improved systems without fully considering the people who would be using them. It gradually became clear that systems and products would have to be designed to take account of many human and environmental factors if they are to be used safely and effectively. ...read more.

Conclusion

This initiative draws research activities together that focus on achieving a better lifestyle, participating more fully and actively, and avoiding or alleviating the effects of disability. In 1997, the built environment was highlighted as an area in which EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) funded research could make significant contribution to the aims of EQUAL. 11 projects were funded at that time (for details see www.epsrc.ac.uk/). Further relevant information can also be found at the AgeNet web site www.agenet.ac.uk. Design of information Much of today's human factors research and expertise is channelled towards improving the ways we use information. Virtually everyone has experienced the frustration of using computer software that doesn't work the way they expect it to. For the majority of end users of computer programmes, if the system is not working they have no recourse but to call for technical help, or find creative ways around system limitations, using those parts that are usable, and circumventing the rest or increasing stress levels by using a substandard system. Often the problems in systems could have been avoided, if a more complete understanding of the users' tasks and requirements had been present from the start. The development of easily usable human-computer interfaces is a major issue for ergonomists today. Information design is a related area, concerned with the design of signs, symbols and instructions so that their meaning can be quickly and safely understood. ...read more.

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