What is Human Factors and Ergonomics?
Human factors is any aspect of humans and their behaviors that impacts their interactions with things, processes or organizations. Ergonomics is derived from Greek words meaning “laws of work.” Both terms are used to refer to roughly the same set of concepts but “Human Factors” is more commonly used in North America, and “ergonomics” in Europe.
Who Needs Human Factors?
Everyone who designs things, processes and management systems for people needs to understand human factors. This includes architects, software developers, manufacturers, engineers, artists, medical specialists, business specialists and more.
Where is Human Factors Used?
Human factors is important in the design of everything from simple everyday objects to complex, technologically sophisticated systems. Some examples are an easy-to-grip handle on a vegetable peeler, smart clothing that monitors the wearer’s heart rate and breathing, and life support systems and living spaces in a moon station. Human Factors is used in the design of buildings and workspaces so that people in them can carryout their activities of work and living safely and effectively. It is also critical in design of non-physical artifacts such as procedures for performing tasks, computer information systems and decision aids.
Examples of applications in which human factors play a large role include:
“Smart” clothing which provides musical interfaces for the wearer,
“Smart” housing for the elderly to help them live independently in their own homes for a greater portion of their lives,
Effective and safe manufacturing environments,
Automobile seats, controls, displays that maximize comfort and safety,
Effective computer tools to help people make better decisions,
Web pages designed to make it easy to find information quickly and accurately,
Distributed operations planning tools to assist in disaster management and emergency relief.
Questions? Email us at HFEgrad@umn.edu