Ergonomics is an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely. Ergonomics is the ‘fit’ between people and their work, taking account of their capabilities and limitations.
Ergonomics can reduce the potential for ill health at work, such as aches, pains and damage to the wrists, shoulders and back, noise-induced hearing loss and work-related asthma.
Taking account of ergonomics and human factors can reduce the likelihood of an accident. For example, in the design of control panels, consider:
- the location of switches and buttons – switches that could be accidentally knocked on or off might start the wrong sequence of events that could lead to an accident;
- expectations of signals and controls – most people interpret green to indicate a safe condition. If a green light is used to indicate a ‘warning or dangerous state’ it may be ignored or overlooked;
- information overload – if a worker is given too much information, they may become confused, make mistakes, or panic. In hazardous industries, incorrect decisions or mistaken actions have had catastrophic results.