Health and safety at work are essential all over the world. For this reason, ergonomics in industrial engineering helps to deal with this concern present in all economic and commercial industries.

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What is Ergonomics?

The term ergonomics comes from the Greek word ergon (work or labor) and nomo (natural law). Therefore, we can describe it as the science of adapting to consumer needs, and its intention is to maximize performance and productivity and reduce discomfort in a natural way.

Ergonomics (or ‘human factors’ as it is known in North America) is a field of science that aims to understand and apply this knowledge to enhance human experiences with products, systems, and environments.

To reduce the risk of injury or damage, ergonomics seeks to optimize workspace and environments. To adapt technology, it is also important optimizing the resources we access for work for the needs of our body.

What are the three different types of ergonomics?

According to the International Ergonomics Association, there are thres differents types of ergonomics: physical, cognitive and organizational or workplace.

Physical Ergonomics

Physical ergonomics is probably the most important, since employers prioritize physical comfort. This type of ergonomics seeks to understand how the body reacts to physical and physiological workloads. Repetitive, vibrational, strength and posture work are some of the physical reactions we seek to understand.

Cognitive Ergonomics

Cognitive ergonomics deals with mental processes to interact with information and data. The work stress derived from the workload, decision-making and training are part of the study of cognitive ergonomics. In this type of ergonomics one of the examples of the important work of engineers is the design and visibility of safety signs in the workplace.

Organizational Ergonomics

At the core of organizational or workplace ergonomics is building a better workplace. When the work is done to take advantage of the skills of people it results in a job well done and a satisfied employee.

This type of ergonomics deals with policies and processes in the work environment such as motivation and job satisfaction. It also deals with organizational structures, supervision, teamwork, shift scheduling, and work ethics..

How does ergonomics work in Industrial Engineering?

Ergonomics is a relatively young branch of science, whose 50th anniversary was celebrated in 1999. This branch of science focuses on studies conducted in various other ancient scientific fields such as architecture, physiology and psychology.

The work environment can affect the performance in many ways, ranging from damage to health to effects that reduce the individual’s ability to perform a task or that cause dissatisfaction and uncooperative attitudes.

The scope of ergonomics include physical workload, work posture, lifting and transportation, machine-human system interaction, but also lighting, comfort and noise.

It deals with the evaluation of human capacities and limitations. Also study the work and environmental stress, static and dynamic forces on the structure of the human body, fatigue, etc.

Ergonomists use data and techniques from different disciplines to achieve best design practices:

  • Anthropometry: Body size, types, populations and variations
  • Biomechanics: muscles, lifts, strength and weight
  • Environmental physics: noise, light, heat, cold, radiation, body vibration such as hearing, sight, sensations
  • Applied psychology: skills, learnings, failures, variations.
  • Social psychology: groups, communication, behavior, learning.

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