In a nutshell, the study of Ergonomics can be defined as the scientific study of the relationship between man and his working environment. In management services this definition extends also to the improvement of the effects of the relationship. Such improvements can include:

In the United States the discipline is known more generally as human engineering which might give the impression of the involvement of plastic surgery! This is far from the truth.

From the above list it can be seen that there is a clear association of ergonomics with method study.

A further association obtains in the area of human relations aspects. These include the various relationships the employee enjoys with the company, the management and supervision and with fellow workers.

As with inanimate contrivances the mechanics of the human body, too, must be understood in order that solutions to problems may be tackled as effectively as possible. To meet these requirements reference to the human related disciplines must be made. These include the following.

  1. Anthropometry provides data on human body measurements, in terms of means (averages) and ranges, such as lengths of arms and legs, together with heights and weights, metabolism and body temperatures and the natural regulation of these. The foregoing are commonly used measures but this list is not exhaustive. These data are useful in designing workplace layout. Also for allocating and arranging furniture and equipment. For example, in designing an effective assembly station knowledge of arm lengths will determine where the basic parts can be placed for easy acquisition and assembly or use.
  2. Physiology and anatomy, in conjunction with anthropometry, teach the structure of the human frame, so obviously these disciplines are essential in the design and construction of furniture and equipment in conjunction with anthropometry.
  3. Experimental psychology is the study of human behaviour. This knowledge will assist in understanding the way people react under certain conditions and stimuli.

These disciplines augment the more obvious ones of physics and metallurgy. Physics, in terms of heat, light and sound must be considered in workplace design to minimize adverse effects on the psychological and physiological aspects of the operator.

Work using ergonomics can be carried out in terms of

  1. fundamental and long-term research into better working conditions in general and
  2. individually, the improvement of specific jobs. In management services, inevitably the accent is on the latter.

Man-machine units

In this field, which includes the discipline of cybernetics, it is generally held that the workplace should be designed as one that integrates the operator with his/her machine into one unit. However, such integration must embody elements that include safety, efficiency and productivity. Good productivity can be achieved when the operator has a safe, contented and confident relationship with the workplace in addition to minimal effort spent on ineffective movements.

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