Workplace Sector

Exploring work and the rapidly changing workplace

Workplace ergonomics

It sounds obvious but a workplace can be anywhere work takes place. This could mean hospitals, transport hubs and power plant control rooms. Here though, we're concentrating on places such as factories, shops, offices and schools. Each has their own particular ergonomics challenges. For example, in factories, ergonomics would be applied to assembly line design, processes, tools and equipment, lighting and noise. In shops, it would be concerned with posture, manual handling, accessibility and security. In offices, tasks, seating, display screen equipment would be the target. And in schools, the focus would be on furniture, space and accessibility. These are all just examples of where ergonomics can have an impact; there are many more areas of application in each type of workplace.

The one thing in common with this diversity of workplaces is people. Ergonomics is centred around people and their capabilities, so focuses on creating safer, more productive, more comfortable working environments. This isn't limited to the physical aspects such as desks, chairs and lighting but also includes workload, supervision, motivation and how people work together in teams, for example.

We're now seeing people work in more sedentary postures than ever, causing increased fatigue and greater risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Many businesses have flexible working policies which allow their staff to work from anywhere including at home, at co-working offices and in public spaces. What this means though, is many people end up working in poorly designed environments, without the knowledge of how to make it work for them. There are still many challenges in creating good workplaces and ensuring ergonomics is applied well.

Wondering why we talk here about 'ergonomics' here rather than 'human factors'? They mean the same thing but the term 'ergonomics' is often used more commonly in this sector than in others such as aviation or healthcare.

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