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 The word "Ergonomics" comes from two Greek words "ergon," meaning work, and "nomos" meaning "laws." Today, however, the word is used to describe the science of "designing the job to fit the worker, not forcing the worker to fit the job." Ergonomics covers all aspects of a job, from the physical stresses it places on joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, bones and the like, to environmental factors which can effect hearing, vision, and general comfort and health.

Are ergonomics and human factors the same thing?

So what is ergonomics (or human factors)? Are they the same thing?

Essentially yes, they are different terms with the same meaning but one term may be more in favour in one country or in one industry than another. They can be used interchangeably but it’s pretty cumbersome to read “ergonomics and human factors”, so throughout this website we’ve used whichever of the two terms is more often used in that context.

Ergonomics is about designing for people, wherever they interact with products, systems or processes. We usually don’t notice good design (unless perhaps, it’s exceptional) because it gives us no cause to, but we do notice poor design. The emphasis within ergonomics is to ensure that designs complement the strengths and abilities of people and minimise the effects of their limitations, rather than forcing them to adapt. In achieving this aim, it becomes necessary to understand and design for the variability represented in the population, spanning such attributes as age, size, strength, cognitive ability, prior experience, cultural expectations and goals. Qualified ergonomists are the only recognised professionals to have competency in optimising performance, safety and comfort. The IEHF is the only body in the UK managing and representing this competency.

Practitioners study how people interact with products, processes and environments day to day in order to improve them, to make them easier to use, safer, more comfortable, more efficient. They take into account and apply relevant research to help with this and to suggest recommendations. But none of this can happen without a thorough knowledge and understanding of the users and their experiences.

Applying good ergonomics will make a product easy to use, it will help make a manufacturing process efficient, it will make furniture comfortable, it will contribute to safety, it will add many of the dimensions a product, system or environment needs to make it fit for purpose.

Workcenter Positioning-sWorkstation design can have a big impact on your overall health and well being. Some problems have already been discussed, but there are a multitude of other discomforts which can result from ergonomically incorrect computer workstation set-ups. For example, poor chairs and/or bad posture can cause lower back strain; or a chair that is too high can cause circulation loss in legs and feet.

The chair is actually a very important part of a comfortable workstation. You want a chair that is lightly padded or upholstered. Adjust the height so that the backs of the knees are not in contact with the seat, and your feet are flat on the floor or footrest. Adjust the back of the chair so that it presses against the small of the back. If the chairback is not adjustable, some people may find it comfortable to use a small pillow for support instead.

It is important to listen to the signals your body sends to you. If you find that your shoulders ache after a long day at the computer, see how you are holding your shoulders while you are working. Are you holding them up to keep your wrists at a comfortable angle? If so, maybe you need to raise your chair up so you can relax your shoulders while maintaining a comfortable angle for your wrists. If that places an uncomfortable pressure on the back of your legs because of the chair edge, get a footrest. Your body will tell you where the problems are. You simply need to analyse what you are doing and correct potential problems. 

Proper Seated Position

  • A – The height of your work surface should allow you to work without reaching or bending. Arrange commonly used items such as staplers and phones so that they are within easy reach.
  • B – Forearms should be parallel to the floor and at an approximate 90 degree angle from your upper arms.
  • C – Wrists, neck and head should be in a relaxed neutral position – not angled up or down.
  • D – The distance between your eyes and the monitor should be at least 15.7” or more – typically arms’ length.
  • E – The top one-third of your computer screen should be positioned at or below eye level.
  • G -Adjust the height of your seat so that your feet are resting firmly on the floor. Use a foot rest if you feel that your feet are not properly supported.
  • H – The depth of your seat should allow the back of your knees to extend beyond the edge of your seat. Thighs should be approximately parallel to the floor.


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