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Human Factors and Ergonomics Makes Good Business Sense

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  • 1. IDAHOBUSINESSREVIEW JANUARY 5, 2009 © IDAHO BUSINESS REVIEW Human Factors and Ergonomics initiatives make good business sense By Eric F Shaver . tions that meet and Curt C. Braun users needs from the built environ- he business community is acutely aware of the impact the ment. T economic downturn is having on profits. In these lean times, companies must decide what to cut and what to keep in an effort to remain competitive, or in some cases, solvent. Given that these Ap p l y i n g human and factors ergonomic difficult times will not last forever businesses should work to control , principles and costs with an eye on brighter days. With what resources remain, busi- practices benefits nesses should consider endeavors that will increase customer value customers and and/or employee safety productivity and satisfaction. One approach is , businesses. to make use of the innovative concepts, methods and tools from the field These princi- of human factors and ergonomics. ples have been shown to decrease development costs, minimize Human factors and ergonomics is a scientific discipline whose redesign, reduce time to market, increase sales and market share, goal is to optimize the interaction between people and the sys- decrease customer support and service costs, and improve user tems they use to enhance safety performance, and satisfaction. , experience. Specifically the potential benefits of human factors , In simpler terms, it focuses on designing the world to better and ergonomic initiatives to customers, employees, and compa- accommodate the needs of people. nies include: In the United States, the discipline of human factors and • Increased safety and health; productivity; reliability and ergonomics started in earnest during World War II and continues quality; comfort; satisfaction; ease of learning and use; and loy- today What started with addressing the specific needs of the mil- . alty . itary has expanded into all areas of business, including emerging • Decreased accidents, injuries and illnesses; fatigue and phys- cutting-edge domains like neuroergonomics and nanoergonom- ical stress; absenteeism and turnover; training needs; liability ics. issues; maintenance costs; and time-to-market. Today the term ergonomics is often associated with the physi- , Appropriately implemented human factors and ergonomics cal design of products like office workstations or automobiles. initiatives can result in a positive return on investment when Human factors and ergonomic professionals have made consid- performed by individuals who have an understanding of the erable contributions to the design of objects. They have also inherent complexity of people – especially as it pertains to made significant contributions to many other everyday activi- enhancing the design of technology systems and environments , ties, products and methods. Professionals in this field have influ- for safe and effective use. enced everything from the high-tech world of software develop- This is especially important in a tight economy where limited ment to life- saving medical devices. Some of the varied domains resources must result in solutions that are more acceptable, less in which human factors and ergonomics initiatives have success- costly and require less training and support. fully demonstrated a positive return on investment include: *** • Greater usability of Web sites and computer software Eric F. Shaver is a senior consultant and Curt C. Braun is the president and through improved interaction between the average user and the founder of Benchmark Research & Safety Inc. Benchmark is a human fac- technology . tors and ergonomics consulting firm that specializes in user-centered design, • Designing and/or redesigning tasks and jobs to increase usability, product and occupational safety, research and training. If you have employee safety productivity and satisfaction. , questions regarding this article, you may contact Shaver at • Determining the appropriate medical technology to integrate eshaver@benchmarkrs.com or (208) 407-2908. in a health care environment to minimize the potential for error and to maximize patient and staff safety . – © 2009 Idaho Business Review. All rights reserved. Originally pub- • Using evidence-based architectural design to develop solu- lished in Idaho Business Review, January 5, 2009. For IBR information or to subscribe, call 336.3768, ext. 111 | news@idahobusiness.net | P.O. Box 8866 • Boise, ID 83707

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