What is Occupational Ergonomics?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 22 January 2020
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Occupational ergonomics is a field dedicated to making workplaces healthier, safer, more pleasant, and more efficient for workers and employers alike. Ergonomics specialists work all over the world designing workplace equipment, auditing workplaces, and providing public outreach and education to help people learn more about how to organize workplaces. Some colleges and universities offer training in occupational ergonomics and people can also learn on the job, studying under experienced ergonomics consultants to develop skills for improving workplace conditions.

Ergonomics is a very broad field of study. It requires knowledge in a variety of areas including human anatomy and physiology, economics, and business. One area of occupational ergonomics many people are familiar with is the design of healthy and efficient workstations. When people sit in chairs designed for comfort at desks developed to facilitate work, they can work more easily and are less at risk of developing occupation-related conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome. Occupational ergonomics includes the positioning of computers and associated tools, adjustment to chair and desk heights, and development of supportive cushions, stools, and other devices to help people position themselves in the workplace.


Ergonomic design is also concerned with the human-machine interface on industrial equipment, the development of computer interfaces designed with clarity and ease of use in mind, layout of entire workplaces, lighting, and a wide variety of other topics. Occupational ergonomics consultants can be involved in the initial design of a workplace, addressing specific workplace safety issues from the start, and they can also help workplaces retrofit to improve working conditions.

Many governments have invested funds in occupational ergonomics research. This research is viewed as a public health initiative that will cut costs in the long term by making workplaces safer, reducing accident and injury rates, and improving employee morale. These programs often include outreach and education to teach members of the public about ergonomics issues. Disseminating information to members of the public can facilitate the spread of ergonomic workplace practices.

People interested in this field can work in many different sectors. Some people are engineers and designers, focused on developing equipment designed to meet or exceed ergonomic standards and generally accepted practices. Other people are ergonomics educators, workplace auditors, or workplace designers who work with architecture and interior design firms to build ergonomic spaces from the ground up. Researchers examine the way people work, looking at working habits and emerging trends and applying this information to the development of improved standards.



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