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  3. Human factors and ergonomics
  4. Ergonomics: OSHwiki
  5. What is ergonomics?

It is relevant in the design of such things as safe furniture and easy-to-use interfaces to machines and equipment. Proper ergonomic design is necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries and other musculoskeletal disorders , which can develop over time and can lead to long-term disability.

Human factors and ergonomics is concerned with the "fit" between the user, equipment, and environment or "fitting a job to a person". To assess the fit between a person and the used technology, human factors specialists or ergonomists consider the job activity being done and the demands on the user; the equipment used its size, shape, and how appropriate it is for the task , and the information used how it is presented, accessed, and changed.

Ergonomics draws on many disciplines in its study of humans and their environments, including anthropometry, biomechanics, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering , industrial design, information design , kinesiology , physiology , cognitive psychology , industrial and organizational psychology , and space psychology.

The introduction of the term to the English lexicon is widely attributed to British psychologist Hywel Murrell , at the meeting at the UK's Admiralty , which led to the foundation of The Ergonomics Society. He used it to encompass the studies in which he had been engaged during and after World War II. The expression human factors is a predominantly North American [10] term which has been adopted to emphasize the application of the same methods to non-work-related situations. A "human factor" is a physical or cognitive property of an individual or social behavior specific to humans that may influence the functioning of technological systems.

The terms "human factors" and "ergonomics" are essentially synonymous. Ergonomics comprise three main fields of research: physical, cognitive and organizational ergonomics. There are many specializations within these broad categories. Specializations in the field of physical ergonomics may include visual ergonomics. Specializations within the field of cognitive ergonomics may include usability, human—computer interaction , and user experience engineering.

Some specializations may cut across these domains: Environmental ergonomics is concerned with human interaction with the environment as characterized by climate, temperature, pressure, vibration, light. New terms are being generated all the time. For instance, "user trial engineer" may refer to a human factors professional who specializes in user trials.

According to the International Ergonomics Association , within the discipline of ergonomics there exist domains of specialization. Physical ergonomics is concerned with human anatomy, and some of the anthropometric, physiological and bio mechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity. Pressure that is insignificant or imperceptible to those unaffected by these disorders may be very painful, or render a device unusable, for those who are. Many ergonomically designed products are also used or recommended to treat or prevent such disorders, and to treat pressure-related chronic pain.

One of the most prevalent types of work-related injuries is musculoskeletal disorder. Work-related musculoskeletal disorders WRMDs result in persistent pain, loss of functional capacity and work disability, but their initial diagnosis is difficult because they are mainly based on complaints of pain and other symptoms. These types of jobs are often those involving activities such as repetitive and forceful exertions; frequent, heavy, or overhead lifts; awkward work positions; or use of vibrating equipment.

Short and long term solutions involve awareness training, positioning of the body, furniture and equipment and ergonomic exercises. Sit-stand stations and computer accessories that provide soft surfaces for resting the palm as well as split keyboards are recommended. Additionally, resources within the HR department can be allocated to provide assessments to employees to ensure the above listed criteria is met. Innovative workstations that are being tested include: sit-stand desks, treadmill desks, pedal devices and cycle ergometers.

In multiple studies these new workstations resulted in decreased waist circumference and psychological well being, however a significant number of additional studies have seen no marked improvement in health outcomes. Cognitive ergonomics is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system.

Epidemiological studies show a correlation between the time one spends sedentary and their cognitive function such as lowered mood and depression. Organizational ergonomics is concerned with the optimization of socio-technical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes. A good deal of evidence indicates that Greek civilization in the 5th century BC used ergonomic principles in the design of their tools, jobs, and workplaces.

One outstanding example of this can be found in the description Hippocrates gave of how a surgeon's workplace should be designed and how the tools he uses should be arranged.

In the late s and early s Ramazzini visited many worksites where he documented the movements of laborers and spoke to them about their ailments. Taylor found that he could, for example, triple the amount of coal that workers were shoveling by incrementally reducing the size and weight of coal shovels until the fastest shoveling rate was reached. They aimed to improve efficiency by eliminating unnecessary steps and actions.

By applying this approach, the Gilbreths reduced the number of motions in bricklaying from 18 to 4. However, this approach was rejected by Russian researchers who focused on the well being of the worker. Bekhterev argued that "The ultimate ideal of the labour problem is not in it [Taylorism], but is in such organisation of the labour process that would yield a maximum of efficiency coupled with a minimum of health hazards, absence of fatigue and a guarantee of the sound health and all round personal development of the working people.

Dull monotonous work was a temporary necessity until a corresponding machine can be developed. He also went on to suggest a new discipline of "ergology" to study work as an integral part of the re-organisation of work. The concept was taken up by Myasishchev's mentor, Bekhterev, in his final report on the conference, merely changing the name to "ergonology" [24]. The war saw the emergence of aeromedical research and the need for testing and measurement methods. Studies on driver behavior started gaining momentum during this period, as Henry Ford started providing millions of Americans with automobiles.

Another major development during this period was the performance of aeromedical research. Many tests were conducted to determine which characteristic differentiated the successful pilots from the unsuccessful ones.

During the early s, Edwin Link developed the first flight simulator. The trend continued and more sophisticated simulators and test equipment were developed. Another significant development was in the civilian sector, where the effects of illumination on worker productivity were examined. This led to the identification of the Hawthorne Effect , which suggested that motivational factors could significantly influence human performance. It was no longer possible to adopt the Tayloristic principle of matching individuals to preexisting jobs. Now the design of equipment had to take into account human limitations and take advantage of human capabilities.

The decision-making, attention, situational awareness and hand-eye coordination of the machine's operator became key in the success or failure of a task. There was substantial research conducted to determine the human capabilities and limitations that had to be accomplished. A lot of this research took off where the aeromedical research between the wars had left off.

An example of this is the study done by Fitts and Jones , who studied the most effective configuration of control knobs to be used in aircraft cockpits. Much of this research transcended into other equipment with the aim of making the controls and displays easier for the operators to use. The entry of the terms "human factors" and "ergonomics" into the modern lexicon date from this period. It was observed that fully functional aircraft flown by the best-trained pilots, still crashed.

In Alphonse Chapanis , a lieutenant in the U. Army, showed that this so-called " pilot error " could be greatly reduced when more logical and differentiable controls replaced confusing designs in airplane cockpits. After the war, the Army Air Force published 19 volumes summarizing what had been established from research during the war. It was the climate for a breakthrough. The beginning of the Cold War led to a major expansion of Defense supported research laboratories. Also, many labs established during WWII started expanding.

Most of the research following the war was military-sponsored. Large sums of money were granted to universities to conduct research. The scope of the research also broadened from small equipments to entire workstations and systems. Concurrently, a lot of opportunities started opening up in the civilian industry. The focus shifted from research to participation through advice to engineers in the design of equipment. After , the period saw a maturation of the discipline.

It takes into account factors ranging from the design of workstations to the scheduling of rest breaks and job rotation schedules to human resources issues such as promotion opportunities. This approach gives an overview of the OSH risks that each person in the system is exposed to. Within ergonomics the consensus is that the participation of end users in the design of work equipment and workplaces will lead to better design, as these solutions are developed using the expertise and practical experience of the end users.

It is also held that a participatory approach will make the solutions more acceptable to the end users and will improve relations between managers and the workers [28]. Physical, physiological, psychological, social and cultural differences between men and women mean that ergonomists need to be aware of the influences these differences can have in the workplace.

Selection policies and informal self-selection lead to many jobs and tasks within jobs being more associated with either males or females. Real or perceived differences can be associated with different employment patterns for males and females. Jobs, workstations or equipment associated with male employment may be unsuited to female employees, and vice versa. As men and women tend to have different domestic and caring responsibilities outside work, they may prefer different working patterns and hours of work [29]. The European employment directive aimed at preventing discrimination [30] requires employers to carry out workplace adaptions for people with disabilities.

Ergonomics often has a part to play in the process of making modifications to accommodate these individuals, including facilitating keeping them in work or helping them to return to work following injury or ill health. Ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders. Retrieved 31 May , from: [77]. Human factors and ergonomics. Retrieved 20 February , from: [78].

Musculoskeletal Disorders. Retrieved 20 February , from: [79]. Work related stress - together we can tackle it. Retrieved 20 February , from: [80]. International Labour Office, in collaboration with the International Ergonomics Association, Ergonomic checkpoints: Practical and easy-to-implement solutions for improving safety, health and working conditions , second edition, International Labour Office, Geneva, Retrieved 31 May , from [81].

Retrieved 31 May , from: [82]. Jump to: navigation , search. Personal tools Log in. The International Ergonomics Association [23] is the federation of ergonomics and human factors societies around the world [31]. Irish Ergonomics Society [35]. Swiss Ergonomics Association [45]. Sources of these constraints and barriers lie at levels of analyses beyond traditionally framed boundaries and, thus, the purview of HFE and safety professionals. With the growing interest in sociotechnical systems, we can now address these wider-scale issues. An example of this important work is that by Reason , on human error, who established the relative futility of constraining our science to micro-level studies when our stated and ultimate purpose is to affect the wider system.

But, apparently minor actions at one level and one sub-system can percolate across the system to negate and even reverse much stronger, clearer and rational implementations at another time and place. In order to pursue the proposed sociotechnical systems approach to workplace safety, we need more innovative and dynamic analytic methods that consider individual and momentary variation Hancock, Hancock, and Warm For instance, we need a much more dynamic visualisation of our data fields where results can be represented by pictures in motion.

Only then will a meaningful conceptualisation of sociotechnical systems in evolution be readily available to inform and support workplace safety.

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The next significant step in improving workplace safety lies in looking beyond traditional approaches and exploring the potential of sociotechnical systems to address the fundamental challenges associated with new technologies, emerging industries and the ever-changing workforce Dekker, Hancock, and Wilkin ; Holden et al.

This evolution will focus attention on latent or emerging risks as opposed to reacting to injuries after-the-fact. A number of relevant, yet disparate, theories and approaches can be drawn upon to understand worker safety within sociotechnical systems. Here, the focus of the theories and approaches is shifted to safety, though it is recognised that safety is an emergent property of the system and, as such, not separable from other system attributes and goals. Nevertheless, we anticipate that by deploying systems thinking to work systems, a step change can be achieved with the major public health issue of workplace safety.

We argue in this respect that there is an urgent need to to develop a unified sociotechnical systems approach to workplace safety. Appreciation is also extended to Margaret Rothwell for her editorial assistance. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Published online Apr 2. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Email: ude. Received Aug 25; Accepted Jan This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Traditional efforts to deal with the enormous problem of workplace safety have proved insufficient, as they have tended to neglect the broader sociotechnical environment that surrounds workers.


Keywords: sociotechnical system, workplace safety, complexity, system levels, system interactions. Introduction Interest in the sociotechnical systems approach to workplace safety reflects a growing belief that many dimensions of safety are emergent properties of such systems. Evolution towards a sociotechnical systems approach for workplace safety 2. Major limitations in current approaches to workplace safety We describe two fundamental problems with the current research paradigm in workplace safety: 1 narrow identification of an injury event as a local failure in a system and 2 limited focus on exposure of the individual worker to workplace hazards.

Brief historical review of sociotechnical systems theory Sociotechnical Systems STS theory was initially developed by members of the Tavistock Institute in London, with the primary objective to improve the overall quality of working life for a review, see Mumford [ ]. A sociotechnical system has two inter-related sub-systems Mumford : the technology sub-system includes not only equipment, machines, tools and technology but also the work organisation; the social sub-system includes individuals and teams, and needs for coordination, control and boundary management.

Table 1 STS approaches and implications for workplace safety adapted from Carayon Integrates system and workplace safety. Humans are components of the safety control structure, including legislators, regulators, managers, designers, operators, assemblers Systems and control theory The safety control structure, the physical design and the environment must be considered in designing work and investigating accidents.

Open in a separate window. The role of workers in workplace safety 3.

Prescribed versus actual work: implications for emerging workplace safety Approaches based on Scientific Management proposed by Taylor, and later developed by Ford, sought to prescribe work in the greatest possible level of detail in order to increase system predictability for production planning and control. Safety versus other goals: a sociotechnical viewpoint Understanding the role of the worker in a sociotechnical system must include consideration of organisational and psychosocial factors in the workplace to complement our traditional physical and cognitive HFE approaches Smith and Sainfort ; Carayon Developing a sociotechnical systems approach to workplace safety Complex work systems can be characterised by high uncertainty, multiple interacting elements and dynamic change Vicente ; Carayon Levels of sociotechnical systems and implications for workplace safety Rasmussen was the first to start moving away from the standard engineering chain-of-events model of accidents, which is based on reliability theory and component reliability.

Figure 1. Development of a sociotechnical systems model for workplace safety The STAMP model clearly outlines the relationship between system operations and system design or development. Figure 2. Complexity in sociotechnical systems Principles for the design of work systems derived from STS theory can be related to complexity theory Morin Among these are Non-determinism.

Conclusion The next significant step in improving workplace safety lies in looking beyond traditional approaches and exploring the potential of sociotechnical systems to address the fundamental challenges associated with new technologies, emerging industries and the ever-changing workforce Dekker, Hancock, and Wilkin ; Holden et al. Footnotes 1. Disclosure statement No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors. References Avgoustis A. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley; Handbook of Human-Systems Integration. Injuries, Illnesses, and Fatalities.

Human Factors of Complex Sociotechnical Systems. Applied Ergonomics. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction. Sociotechnical Issues in the Implementation of Imaging Technology. Behaviour and Information Technology. Work Organization and Ergonomics. The Principles of Sociotechnical Design. Human Relations. Principles of Sociotechnical Design Revisted. In: Daniellou F. In: Pikaar R. Maastricht: IEA; Paris: Editions du Centurion; Travail: Usure mentale.

Paris: Payot; Journal of Safety Research. Fatal Accidents at Work — Index [online] Safety Science. Risk Analysis.

Human factors and ergonomics

Chichester: Ashgate; Mind, Machine and Morality. The Ergonomst. Theoretical Issues in Ergonomic Science. Ergonomics in Organizational Design and Management. Seips 2. Resilience — The Challenge of the Unstable. Resilience Engineering — Concepts and Precepts. In: Hollnagel E. Burlington, VT: Ashgate; Leuven, Belgium: Katholieke Universiteit Leuven; New York: Marcel Dekker; Mort Safety Assurance Systems.

New York: Wiley; The Social Psychology of Organizations. Macroergonomics: Analysis and Design of Work Systems. Macroergonomics: Work System Analysis and Design. Human Factors. Journal of Organizational Behavior. Paris: Puf; Le taylorisme a visage humain. L'intelligence de la tache. Cramming More Components onto Integrated Circuits. Culture, Politics and Ergonomics. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press; On Complexity.

Information Systems Journal. Participatory Ergonomics. Unifying Theories in Complex Systems. In: Bar-Yam A. Berlin: Springer; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; Human Error. Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents.

Ergonomics: OSHwiki

Characteristics of Successful Safety Programs. International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics. New York: Norton; The Principles of Scientific Management. Toronto: Quality of Working Life Center; The Evolution of Socio-technical Systems. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum; Cognitive Work Analysis. New York, NY: G. Braziler; New York: Grove Press; Triangle: The Fire that Changed America. Translating Concepts of Complexity to the Field of Ergonomics. Cybernetics or the Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine. Fundamentals of Ergonomics in Theory and Practice. Handbook of Human Factors and Ergonomics.

In: Salvendy G. Collected Papers — Ergonomics, Cognition, Anthropotechnology. In: Wisner A. Paris: CNAM; Essential Characteristics of Resilience. Accident Analysis and Prevention. Support Center Support Center. External link. Please review our privacy policy. Initially developed to improve quality of working life; further developments in design of information systems.

Wilson's Interacting Systems Model for Ergonomics. Person interacts with: tasks, hardware and software, other people, remote agents, structure-policy-roles, supply chain, environment, society-finance-politics. Five elements of the work system: individual, task, tools and technologies, physical environment, organisation. Work system needs to be balanced to enhance worker well-being, health and safety. Hendrick and Kleiner's macro-ergonomics approach Hendrick and Kleiner ; Kleiner Political, economic, social and legal environment in which the system functions.

Liveware: workers and other people the workers interact with. Moray Individual behaviour, physical devices and physical ergonomics at the centre of the system. Other layers include team and group behaviour, organisational and management behaviour, legal and regulatory rules, and societal and cultural pressures.

Rasmussen Different system levels, and need for alignment between system levels.

What is ergonomics?

Human-Systems Integration Booher User-centred approach to complex systems design and deployment. Central focus of systems design and deployment; human-system performance is ultimate design criterion. Emphasis on human-system performance as central design criterion encompasses technical and organisational system design. Activity-related ergonomics or ergonomic work analysis EWA Montmollin , ; Wisner ; Daniellou , To transform work situations based on worker activities, and to promote health, quality and productivity.