Cornell University Ergonomics Web


Ergonomics: Origin and Overview


1. Definition -
Ergonomics is the study of human abilities and characteristics which affect the design of equipment, systems, and jobs. The terms ergonomics and human factors can be used interchangeably.

The latest formal definition of Ergonomics is:

"Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of the interactions among human 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. 
(International Ergonomics Association Executive Council, August 2000)

2. Development of Ergonomics -

3. Boundaries for Ergonomics -

Ergonomics includes study of the following:

Work Environment

1. Physical demands (e.g. lifting objects, moving objects)
2. Skill demands (e.g. typing at 110 words per minute)
3. Risk demands (e.g. running on an ice pavement)
4. Time demands (e.g. trying to finish all of the work by the end of semester)

Psychosocial Environment
1. Social (e.g. working in teams)
2. Cultural (e.g. pace of life is different in different countries)
3. Lifestyle (e.g. work vs. leisure time, and quality of life issues differ between countries)

Physical Environment
1. physical agents (e.g. heat, noise, vibration)
2. chemical agents (e.g. air pollutants)
3. biological agents (e.g. airborne diseases)

1. Product design (e.g. designing product dimensions using anthropometrics, biomechanics data)
2. Hardware Interface design (e.g. designing controls and displays to meet user expectations)
3. Software interface design (e.g. designing icons and commands to meet user expectations)

4. Ergonomic Considerations -
a. Physical factors -
ambient conditions; objects (tools, furniture, etc.)
b. Biological factors - body dimensions, body capabilities, physiological processes
c. Psychological factors - mental workload, information processing, training, motivation
d. Work factors - job demands (time, rate, etc.), job design
e. Organizational factors - organization type/climate, management regimes

5. Objectives of Ergonomics -
a. Enhance the efficiency and effectiveness with which work is carried out -
A vital difference between people and machines is that people make mistakes. If we look positively at how people make mistakes to decrease errors (error analysis), we can increase ease of use and reliability of performance. This can increase productivity and the effectiveness of the system.

b. Enhance certain desirable human values at work - increase safety; increase comfort (of using technology); decrease fatigue of operator (e.g. by providing more rest breaks); decrease stress on individual; increase user satisfaction; and increase quality of life for all people (able and differently-abled people).

Back to DEA 3250/6510 menu