Ergonomics is the study of the interaction between people and machines and the factors that affect the interaction. Its purpose is to improve the performance of systems by improving human machine interaction. This can be done by 'designing-in' a better interface or by 'designing-out' factors in the work environment, in the task or in the organisation of work that degrade human-machine performance. Systems can be improved by
In the past, the man has been first; in the future, the system must be first.
(Frederick Winslow Taylor, The Principles of Scientific Management, 1911, p. 7)
|• Designing the user-interface to make it more compatible with the task and the user. This makes it easier to use and more resistant to errors that people are known to make.|
|• Changing the work environment to make it safer and more appropriate for the task.|
|• Changing the task to make it more compatible with user characteristics.|
|• Changing the way work is organised to accommodate people's psychological, and social needs.|
In an information processing task, we might redesign the interface so as to reduce the load on the user's memory (e.g. shift more of the memory load of the task onto the computer system or redesign the information to make it more distinctive and easier to recall). In a manual handling task, we might redesign the interface by adding handles or using lighter or smaller containers to reduce the load on the musculoskeletal system. Work environments can be improved by eliminating vibration and noise and providing better seating, desking, ventilation or lighting, for example. New tasks can be made easier to learn and to perform by designing them so that they resemble tasks or procedures that people are already familiar with. Work organisation can be improved by enabling workers to work at their own pace, so as to reduce the psychophysical stresses of being 'tied to the machine' or by introducing subsidiary tasks to increase the range of physical activity at work and provide contact with others.
The implementation of ergonomics in system design should make the system work better by eliminating aspects of system functioning that are undesireable, uncontrolled or unaccounted for, such as