Memorandum submitted by the Ergonomics
The Ergonomics Society is the learned society,
which brings together those professionals working in the field
of ergonomics and human factors. Ergonomics is the process of
fitting jobs, equipment, and leisure situations etc to people:
designing to optimise performance, safety and comfort taking account
of human limitations, making good use of their capacities and
meeting their needs.
It involves the application of psychological,
physiological and biomechanics principles. The most important
aim is to reduce the likelihood of physical and mental (stress
related) injuries and the possibility of human error which could
have (as in the case of aircraft, nuclear power, railways etc)
There is a general failure by those concerned
in the design of domestic equipment, the built environment, travel
situations and work places to consider ergonomics unless they
are prompted. Users will often overcome shortcomings by being
adaptable and through extra physical effort or by extra learning.
As people get older, however, this becomes more difficult.
Older people ought to be routinely considered
as potential users of equipment, tools, products and environments,
in both work and leisure situations. At work, the design of tasks
and equipment should make allowance for the manner in which our
strength, flexibility, eyesight and hearing, for example, change
as we get older. The Ergonomics Society is collaborating with
HSE for a conference of experts, to be held in April 2000, considering
the implications of an ageing workforce for well being at work.
In the home and leisure situations, older people are at substantially
greater risk of accidents involving wide ranging aspects of the
environment, many of the injuries from which would be preventable
with improved design of the surroundings.
The contribution ergonomics can bring to extending
quality of life are twofold. Firstly, the ergonomics community
are experts at collating and applying knowledge about the abilities
and limitations of humans of all ages, including older people.
The Adult Data anthropometric database compiled by ergonomists
at Nottingham University is an example of a recent government
project collecting new data in this respect. Another illustration
is DTI sponsored work at Loughborough University, examining how
people keep and use their stairs. Increased understanding of this
should help in reducing fall accidents. Ergonomists also have
a battery of methods for developing and evaluating designs and
activities. These have been applied in examples such as the design
of medicine bottles that can be opened by older adults but not
children; development of in-vehicle route navigation systems for
older drivers; the design of transport interchanges that accommodate
those with limited mobility, the development of a suit to restrict
motion, allowing designers to simulate the consequences of conditions
such as arthritis; and the design of controls and displays on
domestic goods, such as washing machines, to ease use by those
with reduced eyesight or manual dexterity.
In this short note the aim is to bring to the
notice of the Inquiry the existence of The Society and the importance
of the subject. We would be very pleased to send in more detailed
evidence, to respond to questions and give oral evidence.