Both here on the Goldtouch blog and in the media at large, the term “ergonomics” is something that often arises. But what is ergonomics, exactly? As this insightful commentary up on ErgoWeb discusses, even within the industry there are so many variations on the term, it’s hard to define it with strict boundaries. With so many different conceptions floating around, what should ergonomics really mean to you, anyway?
At a very basic level, ergonomics as defined by the International Ergonomics Association is the “the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans 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.”
What that’s saying in human words is that ergonomics examines how humans behave within a certain system. This could be your office space or worksite. Then, ergonomics examines how that system can be tweaked to promote safer, healthier, more productive working. Ergonomics is necessarily multidisciplinary. It spans the fields of psychology, physiology, engineering, biomechanics, industrial design and pretty much any field that’s relevant.
Ergonomic approaches and techniques are just as expansive. An ergonomic intervention on an oil rig, for example, might mean designing a better grip for a drill so it won’t easily slip out of a hand. In the office space, ergonomic interventions might mean anything from buying a standing desk for all employees to giving everyone an ergonomic keyboard that tents vertically and horizontally.
While they are at their core about human comfort and potential, ergonomic interventions are often also about economics. With the right interventions, ergonomics can save companies substantial amounts of money on workers’ compensation claims. Additionally, it can also reduce absenteeism and increase employee productivity. Over the course of a career, those savings can be substantial.
This is just a glimpse of what ergonomics is and what it can do for you and your company. For a more in-depth look, we highly recommend reading this blogpost up on the ErgoBlog, Understanding Ergonomics at Work, which provides a more more extensive look at the subject.