Human factors/ergonomics is an internationally recognized learned (scientific, technical, and specialized) discipline that focuses on the:
1) Interaction between people and their environment,
2) Interfaces that facilitate the interactions,
3) Effective consideration of the individual's capabilities and accommodation of their limitations when determining task assignment regarding human and system performance.
The field of human factors/ergonomics, is readily accepted by industry, academia, and government. Industry uses the information to design products that are better suited for human use. It provides the product designer with a competitive edge. Industry also uses the information to better design the workplace to provide a safer and more efficient facility for producing the products. The government establishes human factors/ergonomic guidelines for product design (Consumer Product Safety Commission, CDC, NHS, NSF) and for workplace design (NIOSH, OSHA, NRC, NHTSA). The government requires that human factors/ergonomics principles be inherent in the design of products produced for the government: aircraft, missiles, critical performance systems, software, etc. Academia performs human factors/ergonomics research, provides courses on human factors/ergonomics, and offers degree programs in human factors/ergonomics. Various private entities such as ANSI, ASTM, etc. develop and promulgate human factors and ergonomics related standards. There are numerous national and international professional organizations that focus on promulgating the human factors and ergonomics profession and its scientific knowledge.
The human factors related efforts are most often the underlying scientific basis for human performance related standards such as the Uniform Building Codes, State Statutes, ANSI standards, Fire Codes, ASTM standards, as well as numerous other industrial, trade association, professional guidelines or standards related to the human behavior or the human-environment interaction.The principles of human factors/ergonomics have been around as long as humans have pursued better ways to perform tasks: armament, product construction, facility construction, transportation, tools, etc.
Human factors/ergonomics is a multi-discipline field that brings together the expertise of many disciplines in order to better understand the human system, its capabilities and limitations.
Human Factors/ergonomics scientists focus on identifying, understanding, and determining the design significance of human capabilities and limitations associated with the physical, physiological, psychological, and biomechanical human performance characteristics.
The ergonomic and human factors endeavors have led to the development of human factors/ergonomics researchers and practitioners who identify, understand, and apply basic human factors/ergonomics principles to a very broad range of technologies, including, but by no means limited to:
Hardware product development
Software product development
Complex weaponry systems
Complex space exploration systems
The knowledge regarding human abilities and limitations is categorized into four primary areas:
Within these areas, human factors/ergonomics professionals study and understand, for the purposes of applying to the design process, such human characteristics as:
Sensation (vision, auditory, olfactory, tactile, smell and proprioreceptive)
Risk identification, analysis and aversion
The scientific and engineering communities, relative to human factors/ergonomics, is comprised of a wide range of scientists and engineers who contribute to the human factors and ergonomics body of knowledge. A graphic illustration of the types of disciplines and the relationship between those disciplines is illustrated at this location. Some of the contributing disciplines include the following:
Engineering domains such as systems, mechanical, industrial, civil, electrical, chemical, and software
Physics, statistics, and mathematics.
The field of ergonomics was formally organized in Europe, during the industrialization era, as a means to apply scientific methodologies to the study of work. The discipline has developed to include all aspects of human performance in all aspects of human endeavor. The discipline, embodied in the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) is predominate in most parts of the world except the United States.
The field of human factors was formally organized in the United States during World War II, when the United States began developing sophisticated weaponry. Through empirical events and accidents it was quickly determined that the technologies employed in the weaponry, such as aircraft, was not compatible with human capabilities and limitations. Cooperative efforts between government and industry identified the need for a group of scientists who could focus on the psychological issues and principles involved in the successful interaction between humans and the rapidly advancing aerospace technology. The value of this endeavor was quickly recognized and expanded to include the interaction between humans and all types of technology and environment issues, in essence the human-built environment. The discipline has developed to include all aspects of human performance in all aspects of human endeavor. The discipline, embodied in the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), a member of the IEA, is predominate in the United States.