Ergonomics – a short summary

What is Ergonomics and Human Factors?

Ergonomics and Human Factors can be used interchangeably. Which one you use will depend on your industry, country etc. but they basically mean the same thing. This website uses Ergonomics to cover the whole discipline.

Ergonomics is about optimising peoples’ productivity, comfort and safety by designing equipment and planning work in ways that build on peoples’ strengths and cater for their natural vulnerabilities.

What ergonomists do

Ergonomists use what we know about how people function physically and how they think, to design for them and accommodate them. Ergonomics is aimed at minimising the need for people to adapt themselves to equipment, procedures etc. Instead, it’s about adapting work and equipment to the users.

In all cases the focus of ergonomics is on health, safety, usability, performance and comfort.

Optimising 3 key areas

The three main areas that ergonomists focus on, and bring together are:

  • The job: e.g. tasks, equipment and procedures, environments
  • The individual: e.g. skill levels and competence, attitudes and personality
  • The organization: e.g. management culture, organizational culture, supervision regime, training and development provision

Why do employers need to manage ergonomics?

Managing ergonomics issues is key part of an effective and legally compliant safety management system.

Under UK Health & Safety Legislation there are a range of legal duties which, to comply with, means you need to address ergonomics issues.

Some legal requirements come out of the broader duties to identify workplace hazards and assess risk (Health & Safety at Work etc. Act 1974). Other legal duties come from more specific regulations, such as:

  • Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999
  • Workplace (Health, Safety & Welfare) Regulations 1992
  • Manual Handling Operations Regulations 1992 (as amended)
  • Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992

Productivity and wellbeing benefits

Ergonomics is not just about legal compliance, or even safety. Management of ergonomics issues plays a key role in the productivity and wellbeing of your workforce. Taking clear action on ergonomic issues will be viewed by your workforce as a sign that they are valued, meaning better staff retention. It is likely to encourage engagement and co-operation on a broad range of health and safety matters.

A proactive approach to ergonomics and human factors is a great investment in your most important asset – your people. Your returns on that investment are:

  • Improved productivity
  • Improved work quality
  • Increased worker engagement in health & safety
  • Reduced workforce turnover
  • Reduced sickness absence
  • Legal compliance – and avoidance of HSE Fee For Intervention, costs, avoidance of costly legal actions, avoidance of increased insurance premiums
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