Ergonomics, commonly known as human factors engineering, aims to minimize the mismatch between the capabilities of human and the requirements of the job he is expected to perform. In this context, the major attributes of the human beings are their flexibility and adaptability.

Given a poorly designed task or machine, they will usually find some way to cope—but at some cost. The cost usually is loss of production, injuries, loss of quality, but their can be higher costs like accidents, etc. So ergonomics aims at making the work efficient, comfortable, safe, and healthy.

The ergonomist looks at the human being as one of the components of the work system. The human component has performance characteristics—skills, abilities, and strengths—all of which has limitations. Whereas a fluid power engineer can merely specify a larger pump, the ergonomist is generally stuck with the fairly limited range of human capabilities.

In general, this leads to the conclusion that it is far easier to change the work the human does or modify the machines the human uses rather than trying to change the human. So the cardinal principle of ergonomics is: do not make a person try to adapt or change to fit the job, change the work or work environment to fit the man.

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