Is the study of designing equipment and devices that fit the human body, its movements, and its cognitive abilities. The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as follows:
Ergonomics (or human factors) 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 optimize human well being and overall system performance.
Ergonomics is employed to fulfill the two goals of health and productivity. It is relevant in the design of such things as safe furniture and easy-to-use interfaces to machines and equipment. Proper ergonomic design is necessary to prevent repetitive strain injuries, which can develop over time and can lead to long-term disability.
Ergonomics is concerned with the ‘fit’ between computers and their technological robots and environments. It takes account of the user's capabilities and limitations in seeking to ensure that tasks, equipment, information and the environment suit each user.
To assess the fit between a person and the used technology, ergonomists consider the job (activity) being done and the demands on the user; the equipment used (its size, shape, and how appropriate it is for the task), and the information used (how it is presented, accessed, and changed).
Ergonomics draws on many disciplines in its study of humans and their environments, including anthropometry, biomechanics, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, industrial design, kinesiology, physiology and psychology.
Typically, an ergonomist will have a BA or BS or BD in Psychology, Industrial/Mechanical Engineering or Industrial Design or Health Sciences, and usually an MA, MS or PhD in a related discipline. Many universities offer Master of Science degrees in Ergonomics, while some offer Master of Ergonomics or Master of Human Factors degrees.
In the 2000s, occupational therapists have been moving into the field of ergonomics and the field has been heralded as one of the top ten emerging practice areas.
Physical ergonomics: is concerned with human anatomical, and some of the anthropometric, physiological and bio mechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity.
Cognitive ergonomics: is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system. (Relevant topics include mental workload, decision-making, skilled performance, human-computer interaction, human reliability, work stress and training as these may relate to human-system and Human-Computer Interaction design.)
Organizational ergonomics: is concerned with the optimization of socio-technical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes. (Relevant topics include communication, crew resource management, work design, design of working times, teamwork, participatory design, community ergonomics, cooperative work, new work programs, virtual organizations, telework, and quality management.)