Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of the interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theoretical principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well being and overall system.
Physical ergonomics is concerned with human anatomical, anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity. The relevant topics include working postures, materials handling, repetitive movements, work-related musculoskeletal disorders, workplace layout, safety and health.
Attention to ergonomics principles helps to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses that result in workers’ compensation costs, medical claims, and lost work time. Many disorders and injuries are preventable when work conditions are designed for human safety and comfort. People need training in how to recognize hazards and safety problems, how to control their own behaviors and be provided with a working environment designed for maximum comfort and health.
The study of ergonomics as a way to reduce human error began in the military during the Korean War. In planes used for pilot training, the eject button was poorly placed and pilots sometimes accidentally ejected themselves—often at too low an altitude for their parachutes to open. The button’s location was changed and fewer lives were lost.