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Industrial Ergonomics

Last updated: December 18, 2019

What Does Industrial Ergonomics Mean?

Industrial ergonomics is a sub-field of ergonomics that is concerned with adapting the requirements of a job to the physical needs of the humans who perform it.

When assessing a workplace, an industrial ergonomist looks at all of the individual tasks involved in performing a job and analyzes how those tasks will affect the worker who performs them.

Safeopedia Explains Industrial Ergonomics

This analysis involves consideration of situation-specific factors, such as how many times a task must be performed in a row or for how long it must be performed, what equipment is used to perform it within a given workplace, and what environment the task is performed in. Industrial ergonomics is used both to ensure that workers can avoid injury through the normal course of their work and to minimize the opportunity for accidents by ensuring that the performance of hazardous tasks is not hampered by the poor ergonomic design of equipment involved in the task.

Industrial ergonomics is a major means of ensuring workplace safety by reducing factors that increase the risk of an accident or stress-related injury. Exposure to repetitive stressors within a workplace or to requirements that force the human body to exert force in a manner to which it is not adapted can lead to work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs) or a sudden physical injury. A human who is engaged with a hazardous activity while dealing with either of these conditions faces an increased risk of accident due to his or her physical impairment.

Ergonomic factors can also raise the risk of an accident due to factors beyond causing injury. For instance, performing a task in a high degree of heat or cold, or while facing exposure to vibrations, will lower a worker’s ability to perform the task successfully and raise the risks associated with a hazardous activity.

Industrial ergonomics is often discussed in terms of “human-machine interfaces,” which describes how a human interfaces with—or manipulates the operation of—a given machine. Beyond the safety hazards associated with injurious or stressful ergonomic conditions, the poor ergonomic design of a machine can raise the risk of accident and injury simply due to the machine being difficult to use.


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