Ergonomics: Where Work Meets Pleasure

Ergonomics, Papyrofix“Pleasure in the job puts perfection in the work” – Aristotle thought of this at least a couple of thousand years ago and it’s only logical that our neo-modern society would ultimately feel that it was high time something was done about it. Thus came forth Ergonomics, a concept not as dull at all as its Greek Origin “ergon” meaning “work” and “nomos” meaning “laws” might suggest. In a society that is so obsessed and paranoid about work, Ergonomics promises a breather making work feel like something fitted for one’s comfort and requirements. It is fitting to say then that this topic deals primarily with the process of designing and rearranging workspaces, products and services so as to fit the needs of the people using them. This is what the noise is all about – Ergonomics makes work pleasant, work being used here in the strict sense of the term.

Loosely speaking, the word usually reminds people of scattered ideas like seating, design of car controls and interiors or instruments et cetera. But Ergonomics is so much more than that. In fact, it goes hand-in-hand with fields which are as varied as psychology, engineering, biomechanics, industrial design, physiology, and anthropometry. Human factors & Ergonomics, often referred to together as HF&E, is known to ensure occupational health, safety and productivity in our lives. It won’t, however, be fair to limit its reaches to the domain of occupation only as we have decided to categorize Ergonomics in several other branches as well – physical, cognitive and organizational being the most important ones among them.

Ergonomics being a science-based discipline that it is, takes into account the size, strength, cognitive abilities, age and other factors of the demography in question to substantiate its research and make the workplace, product or system suited for their needs and comfort. It therefore goes without saying that only and only qualified ergonomists will have the necessary skills and the aptitude to bring about this optimum development in performance, safety and comfort. Now while it is true that good Ergonomics doesn’t necessarily catch our attention, if not exceptionally good that is, it is also true that poor design and lack of co-ordinated arrangements keep getting in our way every now and then – uncomfortable chairs, airports and railway stations with poor signage, machines with hopelessly incomprehensible instructions, poor product packaging and what not. This is where Ergonomics enters the scene and steals the show.  So we have by large established that Ergonomics has successfully infiltrated the very banal and at the same time highly important spheres of our living. This necessitates the human factor specialists to be embedded within teams working at these places in question. Let us take aviation and aircrafts for example. Had it not been for these ergonomists, we would have never seen the day when evacuation from aircrafts is so facile thanks to interior lights and safety information informed by their research. Also, application of Ergonomics in this field has made sure that the pilots remain in the loop of communication with their control centres throughout their flying time, at the same time taking advantage of the nouveau visualization tools and accurate sensors in their advanced glass cockpits. Although it is not possible to cite examples from each field that Ergonomics is associated with, we may comment that the domains of specialization within the discipline are not mutually exclusive, and the fruits of the research from one domain has more often than not spilled into another , thus spreading its roots and intensifying its existence.

In this last section, the attempt would be to help the readers catch a longer glimpse of how the contributions of Ergonomics fit into the categories I had previously mentioned. Let’s take Physical Ergonomics for example. Concerned primarily with human anatomical and biomechanical characteristics, it deals with working postures, materials handling, repetitive movements, work related musculoskeletal disorders, workplace layout, safety and health, While Cognitive Ergonomics on the other hand is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response – factors that influence contacts among humans and other elements of a system. Similarly, Organizational Ergonomics deals with the development of socio-technical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes like include communication, crew resource management, work design, community Ergonomics, cooperative work, virtual organizations, telework, and quality management.

All this said and done, we do understand that Ergonomics as a science is here to stay, as long as human beings intend to work, physically and mentally, and as far as work is concerned, no matter how technologically advanced our society might turn out to be, manual work will always be sought for and so will Ergonomics.