Ergonomics Design Guidance: Six Elements

“Six Ways to Apply Ergonomics in Design,” is a free e-book recently made available by Humantech, a firm of experts in workplace improvement. Integrating ergonomics principles during the design phase of tooling, equipment, and workstations offers facility professionals the opportunity for improvement in both system performance and their employees’ health and safety.ergonomics

Focusing on workplace and workstation design challenges, the book boils down essential ergonomic design considerations to six simple practices. The 18-page resource outlines what companies should do, and also includes “potential pitfalls” to avoid.

Josh Kerst, CPE, CIE, the book’s author and vice president at Humantech, says, “I’ve seen efficient and effective design approaches add extreme value to business by engaging the workplace and improving the company’s productivity and bottom line. And, I’ve witnessed many others that are frustratingly poor, overly cumbersome, and can ultimately deny workers their health, safety, and even morale.”

Establishing ergonomic design specifications is one of the six best practices discussed. Few companies proactively translate ergonomic design features into specifications when sourcing workstation components and machine tools, and even during space planning. Those that do can reduce exposure to hazards and, in some cases, “design out” ergonomic risk altogether.

Ensuring products and equipment are designed “ergonomically” should be the responsibility of the company’s engineering team, not the supplier. “Relying on suppliers to tell you that their products and equipment are ergonomically designed is not a good practice, and could lead to mistakes or cause injury,” explains Kerst. Many equipment manufacturers claim their equipment is ergonomic when no study has been conducted to prove it.

Another one of the six elements is educating the engineering team. Many engineers are not aware of the degree to which they influence the work environment and people. Typically, their studies do not include courses in ergonomics training, biomechanics, and people. Educating the team, or developing a common language between the ergonomist and the engineer, will improve the overall design approach. Kerst also recommends that designers and engineers spend time performing the jobs they design. This approach generally results in that “aha” moment—when it becomes clear that the job they designed is outside a person’s physical limitations. Understanding the relationship between work and people is the key to designing a successful organization.

The other four elements covered in the e-book are:
Manage Constraints
Leverage Existing Design Systems
Right Questions to the Right People
Validate Designs, Share Success

Also included in the document are links to case studies and “Five Mistakes Companies Make with Ergonomics”.


  1. Caroline, thank you for your question. Incorporating sit/stand desks in the workplace is a practice we recommend. On average people sit between 12 and 14 hours per day. According to Health Magazine, “The more people sit each day, the greater their risk for chronic health problems, such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease; and, a lot of office jobs that require long periods of sitting may be hazardous to your health because of inactivity and the low levels of energy expenditure.” Studies also suggest that long durations of sitting is as bad for your health as smoking cigarettes. Incorporating a standing workstation is one way to increase energy expenditure during the day. Not only does it increase cardiovascular function, but it increases cognitive ability and allows the body to burn more calories. However, too much static standing can be bad for your health, too. So, we recommend alternating between sitting and standing throughout the day. Our body is not meant to sit or stand for long durations of time. Alternating between the two positions is the future of ergonomic design.

  2. Nice piece. What do you think about standing desks (height adjustable desks & workstations), in particular what role they could play in terms of ergonomic design in the future? I think they can definitely improve communication, collaboration and just the overall mood (look & feel) of the future office.

    Interested in your thoughts: Do you think they are they a fad or a key part of future ergonomic design?

Comments are closed.