3

Anthropometric principles in workspace and equipment design

He who sees things grow from the beginning will have the best view of them.

(Aristotle)

Humans are, perhaps, the most plastic of all species, and hence, the most variable.

(C. G. N. Mascie-Taylor and B. Bogin, 1995)

The word 'anthropometry' means measurement of the human body. It is derived from the Greek words 'anthropos' (man) and 'metron' (measure). Anthropometric data are used in ergonomics to specify the physical dimensions of workspaces, equipment, furniture and clothing to ensure that physical mismatches between the dimensions of equipment and products and the corresponding user dimensions are avoided.


Designing for a population of users

The first step in designing is to specify the user population and then to design to accommodate as wide a range of users as possible - normally 90% of them. Well-designed products acknowledge and allow for the inherent variability of the user population.

In ergonomics, the word 'population' is used in a statistical sense and can refer to a group of people sharing common ancestors, common occupations, common geographical locations or age groups. A user population may consist of people from different races (i.e. groups differing in their ancestry) or different ethnic groups (different cultures, customs, language, and so on). For design purposes, the criteria for deciding what constitutes a 'population' are functional and are related directly to the problem at hand. If we want to design a cab for bus drivers in Chile, we require data on the anthropometry of Chilean bus drivers. If we want to design workspaces in private hospitals in Saudi Arabia, we need data about the European and Australian nurses who usually work in them.


Sources of human variability

Biological anthropologists distinguish four types of human adaptation. Over many lifetimes, genetic changes may occur as a result of natural selection. Over the course of a lifetime, organisms exhibit plasticity (literally the capability of being moulded). Over the short term, organisms can exhibit acclimatisation, and over the very short term behavioural adaptation. Only the last two of these forms of adaptation are reversible.

-58-

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