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INSY 3020 Introduction to Occupational Ergonomics. Dr. Robert E. Thomas Industrial and Systems Engineering Department Auburn University Spring 2005. ERGONOMICS. “ Ergo ” = Greek word meaning “work” “ Nomos ” = . . . “laws”

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INSY 3020 Introduction to Occupational Ergonomics

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Insy 3020 introduction to occupational ergonomics

INSY 3020Introduction to Occupational Ergonomics

Dr. Robert E. Thomas

Industrial and Systems Engineering Department

Auburn University

Spring 2005



  • “Ergo” = Greek word meaning “work”

  • “Nomos” = . . . “laws”

    Introduced into literature in the 1840’s by Polish educator and scientist Jastrzebowski Wojciech.



Ergonomics is a multidisciplinary activity that assembles information on people’s capacities and applies that information in designing jobs, products, workplaces, and equipment.

Philosophy of ergonomics

Philosophy of Ergonomics

“Fit The Task To The Person”

Ergonomics activities

Ergonomics Activities

  • Worker / Workplace Accommodation

  • Physiological Stress Prevention

  • Environmental Stress Prevention

  • Equipment design

  • Error Minimization

Ergo vs safety


  • Safety generally concerns traumatic injuries (i.e “slam/bang’)

  • Ergonomics generally concerns chronic injuries (i.e. “slow”)

Historical events

Historical Events

  • Scientific management/industrial engineering (1880s to 1930s)

  • World war II (1940s)

  • Space program (1950s and 1960s)

  • Product & Environmental focus (1970s to ..)

  • Productivity focus (1970s to …)

  • Safety & Health focus (1980s to …)

Traditional meanings and background

Traditional Meanings and Background

United States = Human Factors

Europe = Ergonomics

Other Terms = Human Engineering

Engineering Psychology

Types of ergonomics

Types of Ergonomics

  • Informational- Concerned with information interfaces and transfer

  • Physical- Concerned with physical interfaces including workplace and tool design

  • Organizational-Concerned with the design of organizations, jobs and activities (AKA as “Macro- ergonomics where large organizations or entities are involved

How ergonomics is mostly accomplished

How Ergonomics is Mostly Accomplished

  • By changes in the design of workplace or work area.

Primary techniques tools of ergonomics

Primary Techniques-Tools of Ergonomics

  • Methods Analysis / Design

  • Workplace/area Design

  • Equipment Design

  • Tool Design

  • Operator Assignments

    Note: Basic understanding of industrial engineering, biomechanics, psychology, and physiology, underlie these techniques.

Examples of ergonomic designs

Examples of Ergonomic Designs

  • Angled soldering iron

  • Bent-handle pliers

  • Paint brush with pistol-grip handle

  • Meat-cutting knife with pistol-grip handle

  • Adjustable chair

  • Adjustable computer workstation

Examples of ergonomic designs con d

Examples of Ergonomic Designs (con’d)

  • Assembly line that flips automobile onto its side

  • Moon-cut workstation

  • Automobile control panel

  • Adjustable-height conveyor belt

  • Adjustable computer keyboard

Secret of ergonomics

“Secret” of Ergonomics


Enforcement of ergo


  • Under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act

  • OSHA has issued draft ergonomics guidelines for nursing homes , retail grocery stores and poultry processing


Current primary occupational ergonomics focus

Current Primary OccupationalErgonomics Focus

  • Musculoskeletal CTDs

    - Of lower back

    - Of upper extremities





Factors influencing ergonomics

Factors Influencing Ergonomics

  • Occupational Safety & Health Legislation

  • Equal Employment Opportunity

  • Product Liability Litigation

  • Quality of Life Expectations

  • Responsible & Concerned Management

  • Workforce Changes (Next slide)

Workforce changes

Workforce Changes

  • Composition of the workforce

  • Types of work

  • Where people work

Ergo professional society


  • Human Factors and Ergonomics Society

Certification in ergonomics


  • Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics (

Benefits of ergonomics

Benefits of Ergonomics

  • Improved safety and health

  • Increased productivity

  • Increased operator acceptance

  • Improved attitude toward change

  • Lower worker’s compensation premiums

What s stopping ergonomics

What’s Stopping Ergonomics?

  • Common misperceptions

  • “Ownership” conflicts

  • Omission from engineers’ training

  • “Quick-fix” focus

  • Ergonomics “costs too much.”

The average person

The “Average Person”

Designing for the

“Average Person”

--- Whoever they may be !!!

Ownership conflicts

Ownership Conflicts

  • Safety Vs.. Human Resources

  • Human Resources Vs.. Medical

  • Medical Vs.. Safety

  • Engineering Vs.. All of the Above

Training of engineers

Training of Engineers

  • Engineers are not taught ergonomics at universities

  • Fixation is on “things,” not on people

Quick fix focus

Quick-Fix Focus

Ergonomics cost too much

Ergonomics Cost Too Much

  • Fixing Existing Ergo Problems= $4 Savings for $1 Invested

  • Prevention Ergo Problems during design stage( I.e. before tey occur)= $10 saving for $1 invested



  • Ergonomics isn’t new

  • Fit task or work area to people

  • Ergonomics is accomplished by design changes

  • Ergonomics is “stopped/impeded” by several common misperceptions

  • Ergonomics is almost always economically beneficial

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