Ergonomics (from Greek ergon work and nomoi natural laws) is the study of designing objects to be better adapted to the shape of the human body and/or to correct the user's posture. 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 elements which can be changed by the user.
Wojciech Jastrzębowski used the word ergonomics for the first time in his article Rys ergonomji czyli nauki o pracy, opartej na prawdach poczerpniętych z Nauki Przyrody in 1857.
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 normal computer keyboard tends to force users to keep their hands together 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.
Ergonomics is much larger than looking at the physiological and anatomical aspects of the human being. The psychology of humans is also a key element within the ergonomics discipline. This psychological portion of ergonomics is usually referred to as Human factors or Human factors engineering in the U.S., and ergonomics is the term used in Europe. Understanding design in terms of cognitive workload, human error, the way humans perceive their surroundings and, very importantly, the tasks that they undertake are all analyzed by ergonomists.
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 artefacts 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))
The NIOSH Applications Manual for the Revised NIOSH Lifting Equation, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 94-110, 1994 is a reference in this field.
Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46