Ergonomics 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.
Ergonomics may also be thought of as the science of fitting the task to the worker but not the worker to the task. The human is a constraint here and the machine, working environment, work design can be modified scientifically to improve the interaction between the worker and the task as a whole to increase productivity and minimize injury risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and accidents as well.
Moreover, Ergonomics is an important part of research in the industrial design and development process including task design.
The scientifically proven significance of application of Ergonomics principles to the industry are to
- Increase the safety of the worker
- Enhance the comfort level of the worker during working
- Enhance performance of the worker
- Enhance productivity of the industry or system
- Minimize the risk of injury
- Minimize the risk of accident
The human body is part of the physical world and obeys the same physical laws as other animate and inanimate objects. The goal of ergonomics at this level is to optimize the interaction between the body and its physical surroundings. This means ensuring that physical space requirements are met (using data on human ‘anthropometry’) and that internal and external forces acting on the body are not harmful.
Ergonomic problems often arise because, although the operator is able to carry out the task, the effort requires overloads on the sustaining and supportive processes of the body and causes fatigue, injury or errors. For example, if a lifting task is repetitive in nature and takes place over an extended period of time, it will require sustained strength and endurance. The body responds to this demand by increasing the heart rate and by breathing more heavily to take in more oxygen. In this instance we would like to be sure that the manual materials handling task does not overly tax the worker from a physiological standpoint.
Ergonomics uses anthropometrical data to determine the optimum size, shape and form of a product, and make it easier for people to use.