Ergonomics South Africa is the study of how to improve efficiency and comfort in a work place. Correct ergonomic design helps to reduce discomfort at work, which increases job satisfaction, productivity and well-being – and reduces costs to the organization in the long run.

ergonomics cape townErgonomics derives from two Greek words: ergon, meaning work, and nomoi, meaning natural laws, to create a word that means the science of work and a person’s relationship to that work.

Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging workplaces, products and systems so that they fit the people who use them.

Most people have heard of ergonomics and think it is something to do with seating or with the design of car controls and instruments – and it is… but it is so much more. Ergonomics applies to the design of anything that involves people – workspaces, sports and leisure, health and safety.

Ergonomics (or ‘human factors’ as it is referred to in North America) is a branch of science that aims to learn about human abilities and limitations, and then apply this learning to improve people’s interaction with products, systems and environments.

Ergonomics aims to improve workspaces and environments to minimise risk of injury or harm. So as technologies change, so too does the need to ensure that the tools we access for work, rest and play are designed for our body’s requirements.


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What is Ergonomics?

At its simplest definition ergonomics literally means the science of work. So ergonomists, i.e. the practitioners of ergonomics, study work, how work is done and how to work better.

It is the attempt to make work better that ergonomics becomes so useful. And that is also where making things comfortable and efficient comes into play.

Ergonomics is commonly thought of in terms of products. But it can be equally useful in the design of services or processes.

It is used in design in many complex ways. However, what you, or the user, is most concerned with is, “How can I use the product or service, will it meet my needs, and will I like using it?” Ergonomics helps define how it is used, how it meets you needs, and most importantly if you like it. It makes things comfy and efficient.

How does ergonomics work?

Ergonomics is a relatively new branch of science which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 1999, but relies on research carried out in many other older, established scientific areas, such as engineering, physiology and psychology.

To achieve best practice design, Ergonomists use the data and techniques of several disciplines:

  • anthropometry: body sizes, shapes; populations and variations
  • biomechanics: muscles, levers, forces, strength
  • environmental physics: noise, light, heat, cold, radiation, vibration body systems: hearing, vision, sensations
  • applied psychology: skill, learning, errors, differences
  • social psychology: groups, communication, learning, behaviours.

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