We explain what ergonomics is and what is its relationship with anthropometry. In addition, we offer you basic ergonomics advice.

Ergonomics is an applied science, close to design and engineering.

What is ergonomics?

ergonomics It is the discipline that studies the relationship between the human body and work environments., with the purpose of obtaining tools and environments adapted in the best possible way to the human body. This is done with the purpose of building healthier and more productive work environmentsthat respond naturally to the anatomical, psychological and physiological proportions of the workers.

It is an applied science, close to design and engineering, which deals with those work environments where the human body interacts with a machine for prolonged periods, which has a major impact on body posture, mental stability and general health. Its name comes from the Greek words ergo (“work and nomes (“rule” or “law”).

The origins of ergonomics go back to classical antiquity. Thinkers and philosophers of Ancient Greece, such as Hippocrates (c. 460-370 BC), already warned about the need to adapt work tools to the human body, and many of the work tools of Ancient Egypt show the intention to be more comfortable for the worker’s hand.

However, the term “ergonomics” did not exist until the mid-19th century, and its massive application as a labor discipline began at the beginning of the XXas a legacy of Taylorist thought, that is, of the methods proposed by the American Frederick Winslow Taylor (1856-1915), one of the great promoters of the scientific organization of work.

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Starting from the Second World War (1939-1945), ergonomics gained more and more prominence as a tool to improve work. Above all, when it was shown that the adaptation of work spaces to the human body, as well as to the human mind and its instinctive responses, generated higher rates of effectiveness and lower rates of accidents and losses. A trend that was verifiable, for example, both in daily tasks and in the design of the aircraft cabin.

Environments, tools and designs that respond to the principles of ergonomics are known as ergonomic.

See also: Occupational health

Objectives and importance of ergonomics

The fundamental objective of ergonomics is design friendlier environments for the anatomy and mentality of human beings. In other words, spaces and tools that respond in a more natural and less tiring way to our way of being, and therefore do not require additional effort than the work itself. So ergonomics is not only important for workers, but also for employers.

Thus, for example, a worker in a factory that has the right tools and the right working environment will not only have to make less effort to do their job, which translates into less wear and tear and less health consequences, but also You will also be more productive, more proactive, and have a greater margin of commitment to your work.

In contrast, a worker who works in a situation of discomfort, tormented, with tools that cause bodily harm, possibly performs at a minimum and is in a continuous search for better job offers.

Basic ergonomics tips

ergonomics tips
People who work at a desk should take a healthy posture and make interruptions.

Some basic principles of ergonomics in the work environment are the following:

  • It has been proven that people who spend between 8 and 11 hours a day sitting at their jobs, with few or no interruptions, have higher blood pressure, a greater propensity for cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, and generally increase their mortality by 15 % every 3 years. For this, ergonomics recommends frequent 3-minute breaks every 30-45 continuous minutes of work, during which 20-second bouts of exercises will be performed of light resistance, such as half squats, knee raises and gluteal contractions.
  • People who work in front of a computer must have non-reflective screenswith a brightness suitable for its environment (not backlit) and the monitor should be at eye level, not continuously tilted, located about 50 to 60 cm away.
  • Similarly, people who work with keyboards on a daily basis should keep their wrists in a straight line and their elbows in a degree of opening between 80° and 100° of angle.
  • People who sit for long hours during their workday must have their feet firmly supported on the floor, or on a support, if necessary, with hips and knees bent at 90° angles and firm support of the lower back (for example, a cushion) so that the back rests entirely on the chair.
  • People who work standing for long periods of time should have a bench height to sit and rest the legs, and they must be in frequent movement, not static. If possible, they should have compression stockings to protect circulation in the legs.
  • People who work lifting weights with their hands must have a harness or a sash around the torso to keep their backs straight. They should lift the weights by bending their knees and not by hunching their backs.
  • Workers who operate in high noise environments should have isolating headphones and staggered breaks to avoid overexposure to noise.
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cognitive ergonomics

Cognitive or cognitive ergonomics It is the branch of ergonomics that specializes in work-related mental processes.that is, to the way in which the environment and work tools operate together with the memory, perception and reasoning of the human being, in order to optimize the well-being of people and the performance of productive systems.

To achieve this purpose, cognitive ergonomics not only analyzes human-machine and human-computer interaction, but also designs training programs, questions the mental workload, and analyzes the environmental variables that affect the emotional and psychological well-being of patients. workers.

In a world of increasing automation and mechanization, in which the role of workers tends more and more to mental tasks, cognitive ergonomics emerges as a fundamental branch of work environment analysis.

ergonomics and anthropometry

ergonomics anthropometry
Ergonomics needs anthropometry to know how to adapt to the human body.

Anthropometry is the discipline that deals with measuring the human body.that is, to register their proportions and establish certain normality criteria that may be useful when designing tools and spaces.

Therefore, its techniques and approaches are fundamental to ergonomics, since it is impossible to find an ideal working environment for the human being if one does not first know the way in which the human body is proportioned and the effects that a sustained posture for hours a day can have on its constitution. The techniques and tools that deal with measuring the human body, or that respond by design to these proportions, are known as anthropometric.

More in: Anthropometry


  • “Ergonomics” on Wikipedia.
  • “Cognitive ergonomics” on Wikipedia.
  • “What is ergonomics?” at the Anahuac University (Mexico).
  • “What is ergonomics?” at the National Institute for Safety and Health at Work (Spain).
  • “Ergonomics” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.
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