The field of ergonomics has shaped the way we live our lives.
Ergonomics is concerned with the productive interaction of the human body with equipment and systems. Administrative authorities often employ the philosophy to make improvements in the workplace. This can also be brought into the home to provide safe conditions and other improvements. Either use can have added medical benefits by reducing the chances of disabilities such as repetitive strain injuries or skeletal disorders. People with disabilities can also be benefitted by another facet of ergonomics, the intention to overcome limitations.
Ancient Greece may have been the first civilization to implement ergonomic principles into society. The Greeks refined the shape and size of their tools over time, based on ergonomic thinking. It has been noted by historian that Ancient Egypt also sometimes employed ergonomics, in the way that surgeons arranged their tools, for example. Frederick Winslow Taylor was the first to introduce ergonomic principles as a discipline to be observed to provide the optimum method of carrying out a task. Taylor was able, for example, to triple the amount of coal being shoveled by reducing the weight of the shovels which were being used.
Similar observations would greatly alter the way war was waged by the military. During World War I aviation was a subject of intense ergonomic study, providing the maximum effect and efficiency of pilots working with their aircraft. This was especially true in designing controls that presented an intuitive means of operation and assisted the pilot to overcome the effects of altitude. Edwin Link had developed the first functioning flight simulator by the 1930s, inspired by ergonomics. These innovations and many others prepared the military for World War II.
Soon after the war, other designers began to apply ergonomic thinking to a variety of other fields. Automobiles and civilian aircraft, for example, both began ergonomic research to improve the function of their machines by operators.
The dawning of the Information Age brought about new avenues for ergonomic design, driven by the development of the computer. Based on human factors, the new field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) gained a great deal of interest in the 1980s with the popularity of the personal computer (PC). A wide range of devices and furniture would follow the PC, most with ergonomic considerations built into the design. The mouse, molded to fit the human hand, and operations center furniture, which complements the human body, are some of the many examples. Business and government have made use of the same thinking in the design of their furnishings, in control room consoles and data center consoles, for example.
Some businesses and government have opted to employ full-time specialists in ergonomics to constantly upgrade productivity. Safety is another concern of these specialists, working to implement new rules or features which enable a safer work environment. They also consider the environment and all elements, such as light, temperature and climate, within the environment that affect human activity. Today ergonomics have become so commonplace that it is often at work without us noticing.