Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland

Ergonomics is a science concerned with the ‘fit’ between people and their work. It puts people first, taking account of their capabilities and limitations. Ergonomics aims to make sure that tasks, equipment, information and the environment suit each worker.

The design of control rooms, workstations, plant and equipment can have a large impact on human performance. Designing tasks, equipment and work stations to suit the user can reduce human error, accidents and ill-health.

Failure to observe ergonomic principles can have serious consequences for individuals and for the employer. Effective use of ergonomics will make work safer, healthier and more productive.

To assess the fit between a person and their work, ergonomists have to consider many aspects such as the task, the equipment being used, and the physical and social environments. Physical aspects such as body size, shape, posture and the senses should also be considered.

Applying ergonomics

  • reduces the potential for accidents
  • reduces the potential for injury and ill health
  • improves performance and productivity.

Ergonomics can reduce the potential for ill health at work, such as aches and pains of the wrists, shoulders and back. Consider the layout of controls and equipment; these should be positioned in relation to how they are used. Those used most often should be placed where they are easy to reach without the need for stooping, stretching or hunching.

Other examples

Ergonomics is typically known for solving physical problems.

For example, ensuring that work surfaces are high enough to allow adequate clearance for a worker’s legs. However, ergonomics also deals with psychological and social aspects of the person and their work.

For example, a workload that is too high or too low, unclear tasks, time pressures, inadequate training, and poor social support can all have negative effects on the person and the work they do.

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