The 5 Steps to Thinking Like an Ergonomist

The word ergonomics was coined in 1949 by a British scientist, who put it together from the Greek words ergon (meaning work) and nomos (meaning law). In general, ergonomists use knowledge of anatomy, physiology and psychology to study how individuals engage in work. While occupational settings have always been a major area of interest for ergonomists, their knowledge of human capabilities and constraints is also helpful in design of everyday tools. Ergonomists have two major goals: 1. to ensure that individuals doing the work and those affected by the results are safe and 2. to improve and maintain high levels of work performance.

In order to practice thinking like an ergonomist, think of a job and ask yourself:

  1. WHAT does the job entail? Make a list of bodily movements and also mental processes that are needed to perform the job. For instance, writing this article required me to think about the topic, decide what exactly I should write about and come up with a mental outline. It also required typing with my fingers while sitting behind my desk and looking at my screen for almost 1 hour.
  2. WHO does this job? Make a list of requirements for the individual who does the job and also those affected by it. Following up with my example, the person who writes this article should know about ergonomics (prior knowledge and experience is needed) and she should also be able to see the screen and type on a keyboard (because these are the only tools currently available to her). Those affected are the readers, they should also be able to see, read and comprehend English.
  3. WHERE does the job take place? Is the temperature, lighting, noise level and overall work environment supportive? There are currently some renovation projects running in our office and it was hard for me to concentrate because of all the noise the construction guys were making in the hallway.
  4. HOW is the job being done? What are the available tools and methods? Clearly there should be a match between the job expectations and the tools available. If I was tasked with writing this article, but the only tool I had was a mouse and not a keyboard, I could still do the job, but it would have taken me much longer and my job satisfaction would have significantly decreased. Also my job would have been different if I was just following certain sets of rules, rather than thinking and coming up with an idea.
  5. WHY is it necessary to do the job? This may seem trivial, but imagine that you all already knew what ergonomics is and what questions ergonomists asks themselves, then it was not really needed for me to write about it, right? Asking this question helps capturing redundant jobs or find alternatives that may be as good while using less resources. For instance I could instead refer you all to this link, or this one, or even this.

Now that you know what ergonomics is all about, comment on this blog post with which of these 5 ergonomics questions you think is the hardest to answer and why for a chance to win oneĀ of ten $10 Amazon gift cards. Make sure to include the name and location of your high school in the comment.

NOTE: Contest closed on October 31, 2016.

25 Replies to “The 5 Steps to Thinking Like an Ergonomist”

  1. Who does this job? This is the hardest to answer due to the exponentially wide variety of answers and the fact that the other four questions can all have static answers no matter who you’re working for. Not all jobs require sitting in a chair, or typing on a keyboard. An ergonomist must be able to answer the other four questions for each possible job, while also thinking up a variety of valid ergonomic options on behalf of whatever job they are working on at the time.

    Lancaster Central High School; 1 Forton Drive, Lancaster NY 14086

  2. HOW is the job being done? This question has a large variation of possibilities, because every individual does their job just a little bit differently, even when they are in the same workplace and handling the same task.

    Lancaster High School, 1 Forton Drive, Lancaster NY

  3. Why is it necessary. To answer why, the motive of the user needs to be known which varies for each user even if the problem at hand is the same. The why normally is the predicted outcome and is what the end goal is aimed at.

  4. I Think It Is Who Does The Job. This Is One Of The Harder Ones To Answer Especially Because Everyone Is Different And Have A Certain Set Of Skills. If You Did Make A List Of Requirements It Would Either Be Very Strict Or Very Vague. Also In The List You Had Up Above Those Are Very Simplistic Things That Most Of The Population Has. When Making A List Of Requirements Its Very Difficult To Pin Point All Required Skills For A Job And At The Same Time The Person Can’t Have Any Undesirable Traits Too.

  5. Why is it necessary? It is necessary because you have to prove your problem is valid and then justify your answer.

  6. How is the job being done? This is the hardest because there are so many different tools and methods you can use to complete any one task and different people have different opinions on not only which is most effective, but which should be used.
    Lancaster High School
    1 Forton Drive, Lancaster, NY

  7. Why it is necessary? This question would be the most difficult to answer because you have to analyze every other question in a form of stating the answer to this question. Thinking of all aspects that contribute to the job on why in general it is necessary for the job all together

    Lancaster Central High School
    1 Forton Drive, Lancaster NY

  8. Why is the job being done? i feel as though there is a reasoning for your work and you can understand it but how do you get that message out to other people, or even explain it to yourself why you are working on a subject. When working on a job you focus more on the task at hand then the reasoning behind it and that makes it hard to explain why you are doing it.

    Lancaster High School
    1 Forton Drive, Lancaster NY, 14086

  9. How is the hardest question to answer. It is very open ended and there are a variety of ways to solve a task. If there are only certain tools available it would make the job harder to accomplish.
    Lancaster High School, 1 Forton Drive, Lancaster NY

  10. WHY is it necessary to do the job? Because each job has importance and sometimes its not incredibly obvious what the importance of the job is.

    Lancaster High School, 1 Forton Drive, Lancaster NY

  11. WHY is it necessary to do the job? This question is the hardest to answer because it makes one think about the deeper, underlying meaning behind why some task is being completed. It can be difficult to understand the reasoning behind some tasks and can inhibit someone from being able to effectively and thoroughly complete a task.

    Lancaster High School
    1 Forton Drive
    Lancaster, NY 14086

  12. how the job is being done would be the hardest question to answer because you have to think about the equipment needed and how much that equipment or tools will cost. You also have to think about the tools you are using and how they are used.

    Lancaster High School
    1 Forton Drive, Lancaster NY

  13. Why is it necessary? This is because you would have to prove that this problem is valid and justify your solution.
    Lancaster High School, 1 Norton Drive, Lancaster, NY 14086

  14. Why is it necessary? Mostly because you really need to think deeply about your reasoning behind what you are doing and then justify that reasoning even further. In order to be successful in what you are doing, you need to fully comprehend the importance of why you are doing things, otherwise you won’t be able to complete the job at your full potential.
    Lancaster High School
    1 Forton Drive, Lancaster, NY

  15. Where is the job being done? I think this is the most difficult because all of the others are constant; nothing changes from person to person. This question involves a wide variety of variables that are also effected through the personal preferences of the workers.

    Lancaster High School
    1 Forton Drive
    Lancaster, NY 14086

  16. How is the job being done? There is a wide variety of tools available when working with computers.

  17. How is the job being done? This is the hardest because there are different ways to get to the same finished product. Also there will be constraints on what materials and tools you can afford. If there is a time constraint then you need better tools and better procedures to get it done faster.

    Lancaster High School
    1 Forton Dr, Lancaster, New York

  18. HOW is the job being done? This would be the hardest question to answer because everyone approaches things differently. Unless there was a set of instructions everyone had to follow, the ways that something could be done would vary from person to person even if they’re using the same tools.

    Lancaster High School, 1 Forton Drive, Lancaster NY

  19. I would say why is it necessary mainly because it all depends on your audience as to weather your work is redundant or not, so you need to have background information on the readers to determine their knowledge in whatever it is you’re writing about. This can be difficult because your work could be viewed by two separate people, one who has knowledge and one who doesn’t making it redundant for one but not the other. This is why the question Why is it necessary is the hardest to answer.

    Lancaster High School
    1 Forton Drive

  20. Why is it necessary? That is the hardest one to answer because you would have to justify everything, even things that seem obvious to you

    Lancaster High School, 1 Forton drive, Lancaster NY

  21. I think “HOW is the job being done?” is the hardest question to answer, because even if employees are given the same tools and told to get something done, they could be using different methods to do so.

    Lancaster Central High School; One Forton Drive Lancaster, NY 14086

  22. WHO does the job? Every mind thinks on topics in different ways and finds different connections to problems and can think of different solutions to the same problem. If you have 1 person working on a task instead of person 2 you can get an entirely different path of thought and final outcome than you would’ve had if person 2 was working on the task

  23. How is the job being done? I feel how the job is being done is the most difficult question to answer because you would have to address each situation differently depending on what people are doing the work and how to maintain that performance with each different individual.

    Lancaster High School, 1 Forton Drive, Lancaster NY

  24. Who does the job? This would be one of the hardest questions to answer because everyone is different. It also would be challenging to figure out who is going to be affected by this because the job could affect any numer of people and it is nearly impossiple to predict exactly who will be affected by this job.

    East Syracuse Minoa CHS 6400 Fremont Rd

  25. Why is it necessary?? You never understand why things are necessary until they aren’t being done and you can tell what they really do

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