Ergonomics done right.®
March 9th, 2009

The USGBC LEED® Certification has the right idea

The US Green Building Council’s excellent LEED® certification program initiative that encourages ergonomic design consideration in building development clearly shows they understand the benefits of applying the field of ergonomics in a non-traditional fashion. It seems the USBGC has a grasp on what many have tried to promote for years, and even more recently, researchers who are publishing papers trying to get the same point across as we at Humantech have for the last three decades.

Even though 20 years ago ergonomics was perceived by some (for example, Howell 1986), as a highly unpredictable area of human scientific endeavor, today Human Factors and Ergonomics (HFE) has positioned itself as a unique, design-oriented discipline, independent of engineering and medicine that can (and is) harnessed in many workplace fields, industries and environments. Ergonomics is not just about reducing workplace injuries, but has proven to be a key player in productivity and quality enhancement and the smart companies out there recognize this and are reaping in the benefits.

In the article titled "Ergonomics and human factors: the paradigms for science, engineering, design, technology and management of human-compatible systems" (Journal of Ergonomics, 2005) by the internationally recognized researcher W. Karwowski, he stated that “The main focus of the HFE discipline in the 21st century will be the design and management of systems that satisfy customer demands in terms of human compatibility requirements.”  Furthermore, the National Academy of Engineering stated in a 2004 annual report that “In the near future, the ongoing developments in engineering will: . . . expand toward tighter connections between technology and the human experience, including new products customized to the . . . dimensions and capabilities of the user, and ergonomic design of engineered products.”

These statements not only have immense support behind them, but carry huge implications for the future. Both of these credited views carry a common theme: While in the past ergonomics has been driven by technology (reactive design approach), in the future ergonomics should and will drive technology (proactive design approach). The key thing to note here is that these comments are not just in reference to workplace ergonomics and injury reduction, but rather highlights the recognized importance of applying principles of the ergonomics and human factors discipline to everyday products and methods that impact us beyond the workplace walls.

It's encouraging to see organizations such as the USGBC and many others putting these shifting paradigm lessons into place.