Human factors briefing note no. 8 – Ergonomics

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  • Published: July 2011
  • REF/ISBN: 9780852936085-8
  • Edition: 2nd
  • Status: New

This document is freely available to all registered users of this site.

Ergonomics is 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 optimise human well-being and overall system performance. Ergonomists contribute to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, environments and systems in order to make them compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations of people. Source: International Ergonomics Association (IEA), website:

Why ergonomics?

In the introduction to Ergonomics, KFH Murrell makes it clear that it is a subject that continually incorporates information and technologies from other domains if they contribute to understanding and improving human performance. He goes on to say that ergonomics should create an awareness in industry of the importance of human factors when planning work and that the overall purpose of ergonomics is to increase the efficiency of human activity.

Source: Murrell, KHF (1965), Ergonomics. Chapman and Hall.

  • Physical ergonomics is concerned with working postures, materials handling, repetitive movements, work related musculo-skeletal disorders, workplace layout, safety and health.
  • Cognitive ergonomics is concerned with mental workload, decision-making, skilled performance, human-computer interaction, human reliability, work stress and training.
  • Organisational ergonomics is concerned with communication, crew resource management, work design, design of working times, teamwork, participatory design, community ergonomics, cooperative work, new work paradigms, virtual organisations, telework, and quality management. Source: Text edited – from IEA (

Cognitive and organisational ergonomics are explored in other briefing notes. This briefing note focuses on physical ergonomics.

Human factors briefing notes - Resource pack includes the complete collection of briefing notes, contained in their own folder.

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