Comfort and Health in the Workplace: Ergonomics History
Article brought to you by: Phillip Donaldson
Ergonomics is a concept that has been growing in popularity recently but in fact has a long history. The science of ergonomics actually began in Ancient Greek times. Evidence has been uncovered that supports the fact that the Ancient Greeks used ergonomic design principles when designing tools, household equipment, and other items. The word ergonomics comes from the Greek words ergon and nomos which mean work and natural law. An amazing example of ergonomic history in Ancient Greece can be discovered in a description given by Hippocrates of how a surgeon's workspace should be designed. This included everything right down to how the surgeon's tools should be arranged for maximum comfort and performance.
More Ergonomic History
In the 19th century, a man by the name of Frederick Winslow Taylor invented a method referred to as "scientific management." This method proposed a way to figure out the best way of carrying out a specific task. During Taylor's studies, he recorded the specific amount of time that it took for workers to complete a task. He then rearranged equipment to create a more comfortable layout and found that this produced a substantial increase in productivity.
Human Factor Ergonomics
In the United States, the discipline of human factoring and human ergonomics can be traced to the time around the turn of the 20th century. Human factor ergonomics is considered a multidisciplinary field and incorporates aspects of engineering, psychology, industrial design, operations research, and more. Many of the ergonomic advances and human factors originated out of military necessity during World War I. Advances were made in this time period however real research and advancements in ergonomics did not come until the outbreak of World War II. With the invention of new and improved weaponry and machines during World War II, new demands on workers came about. At this time, it was no longer possible to use Frederick Winslow Taylor's principles and a lot of research was conducted to determine the best design to increase human capabilities and decrease limitations. With human factoring and human ergonomics, workplace ergonomics were researched in-depth.
Ergonomics at Work
In the decades following World War II, military sponsored research into ergonomics continued and the focus expanded to include things such as productivity and worker safety. Research began being conducted into muscle force needed to perform tasks, compressive force on the lower back when lifting, cardiovascular response to heavy labor, and the perceived maximum load that can be pulled, pushed, or carried. All of this research pertained to workplace ergonomics.
Ergonomics at work are important for the health and productivity of workers. One of the easiest ways to make a workplace ergonomic is by adding ergonomically designed furniture. It wasn't until the 1970s that office furniture began to be ergonomically designed. Today office furniture such as chairs can be found with adjustable seats, armrests, back supports, and heights. Items such as ergonomic mouse pads and wrist rests can also be added to reduce repetitive stress injuries.
While the field of ergonomics has been around for many years, the concept is now becoming more and more important. Research is constantly being done to improve ergonomic designs and come up with new products that will reduce injuries and stress to workers.
Ergonomics Related References