Ergonomics – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Ergonomics is often assumed to be about chair and computer equipment. However, as a discipline, it encompasses much more than tools we use for work. 

Find answers to most commonly asked questions about ergonomics and its application beyond office equipment here. 

To view the answer, click on the question.

What is Ergonomics?

According to International Ergonomics Association, Ergonomics is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system.

The terms ‘ergonomics’ and ‘human factors’ can be used interchangeably, although ‘ergonomics’ is often used in relation to the physical aspects of the environment, such as workstations and control panels, while ‘human factors’ is often used in relation to wider system in which people work.

Why is Ergonomics important?

Ergonomics is the scientific study of human work. It considers the physical and mental capabilities and limits of the worker as he or she interacts with tools, equipment, work methods, tasks and the working environment.

Ergonomics principles are used to design work environments, tools and tasks that improve job performance, job satisfaction, safety and comforts.

Ergonomics reduces the risk of injury by adapting the work to fit the person instead of forcing the person to adapt to the work.

What is Office Ergonomics?

Office Ergonomics is the branch of ergonomics dealing specifically with the office environment. In recent years the main focus of office ergonomics has been on computer work due to the rapid increase in computer use in the modern office and the associated increase in injuries.

What are the benefits of Ergonomics?

While ergonomic improvements to the work environment are primarily used to create a safer and more healthful work environment, studies have shown there are other benefits like:

  • Reduce risks of Musculoskeletal disorders
  • Increased productivity
  • Increased work quality
  • Reduced turnover
  • Reduced absenteeism
  • Increased morale

What are Musculoskeletal disorders and how are they related to Ergonomics?

Musculoskeletal disorders or MSD is an umbrella term for a number of injuries and disorders of the muscles, tendons, nerves, etc. When they result from work they are known as “work-related” MSDs.

MSDs can develop gradually when the same muscles, tendons or body parts are used repeatedly without allowing body enough time for rest and recovery.  

Other terms that mean the same include:

  • repetitive strain injury (RSI)

  • cumulative trauma disorder (CTD)

  • work-related musculoskeletal disorder (WMSD)

  • musculoskeletal injury (MSI, MSK)

  • occupational overuse syndrome (OOS), and

  • sprain and strain.

With sound ergonomics practices, most MSDs can be prevented.

What are the different types of Ergonomics?

Deeper competencies of specific human attributes or characteristics of human interaction can be classified into following specializations of Ergonomics as per International Ergonomics Association:

  • Physical Ergonomics: Physical ergonomics is concerned with human anatomical, anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity.  Relevant topics include working postures, materials handling, repetitive movements, work related musculoskeletal disorders, workplace layout, safety and health.
  • Cognitive Ergonomics: 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 design.
  • Organizational ergonomics: is concerned with the optimization of sociotechnical 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 paradigms, virtual organizations, telecommute, and quality management.)