Ergonomics and human factors

What is ergonomics or human factors?


What do ergonomists do?


What work areas are ergonomists involved in?

Ergonomics is sometimes referred to as human factors as they both focus on people and the systems they work within. 

Ergonomics is concerned about analysing and designing the work (what people do, how they do it, where they work, how it is organised) so that workers can perform the work efficiently and comfortably without making mistakes or being fatigued.


"Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of the interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimise human well-being and overall system performance."
International Ergonomics Association 



Ergonomists use their broad understanding of the combination of the following factors:

  • physical - how the body works
  • cognitive - mental processes
  • social - interactions with people
  • organisational - the way work is structured
  • environmental – the influence of noise, lighting, temperature and ventilation, flooring, space configuration etc.

This knowledge is used to analyse the interactions between the person and their work system (tools, furniture, space, work processes and organisation) to identify problem areas.

The goal is to design the work so it matches the capability of the people. When there is a mismatch people are not as productive. They may make mistakes and their health, safety and well-being at risk.

Solutions are not necessarily costly or difficult to implement.


Ergonomists often specialise in specific industries such as aviation, forestry, computers, transportation, primary industries.

Some may focus on specific areas of ergonomics such as physical, cognitive or organisational ergonomics but will use their broad understanding of all these areas in their work.

Many ergonomists are involved in research at tertiary institutions.

What are the benefits of ergonomics?


Better performance

  • Improved job performance
  • Improved productivity through fewer mistakes, reduction of bottlenecks, less waste and enhanced work quality
  • Save money by ‘getting things right’ i.e. best equipment for the job, optimum layout and flow with efficient work systems 

Reduced injury costs

  • Reduction in frequency and severity of discomfort, pain and injury
  • Reduced costs for staff rehabilitation from fewer injuries; faster return to work doing jobs that are achievable for all


  • Meet compliance and best practice guideline requirements

Staff benefits

  • Enhanced staff morale by making them feel valued and by improving their work
  • Up-skilled staff who work efficiently and safely
  • Make tasks more achievable for your workforce regardless of their age, gender or disability
  • Reduced fatigue

Enhanced staff retention 

  • Avoid losing people with skills and knowledge of your business\
  • Avoid the costs associated with bringing on new staff


What is a Professional Member of HFESNZ? 


Professional Members of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of New Zealand have met the following requirements:

  • having a relevant university qualification
  • completion of post-graduate education in human factors/ergonomics
  • one-year of supervised training
  • two years full-time practice in the field of human factors/ergonomics
  • meeting a number of practice criteria that is re-assessed three yearly

A Professional Member Associate has completed the educational and supervised training components of Professional Membership.

Professional Members of Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of New Zealand must abide by the society’s Code of Conduct and the Complaints and Disciplinary Procedures.

The current list of Professional Members HFESNZ 
can be found at