The BBC has produced an interesting article detailing some of the ways in which ergonomics has shaped our lives over the years.
From the car, to the office and job site, from packaging, to pretty little things, the concept and application of ergonomics has made the objects and environments in our lives more comfortable.
A selection of the article about Three Mile Island vs. Ergonomics is provided after the break.
In 1979, there was a core meltdown at Three Mile Island – the most dangerous type of nuclear plant accident. As coolant poured away from reactor, those on duty could not understand what was happening due to confusing information on their instruments. And so they inadvertently took action that made things worse.
Bhopal and Chernobyl too have primarily been attributed to “operator error”.
At Three Mile Island, in Pennsylvania, no-one died or was injured. But it led to far-reaching reforms of how nuclear plants operate, which used ergonomics to work out more logical controls for staff.
A 1979 report by the President’s Commission on the Accident at Three-Mile Island noted the “control panel is huge, with hundreds of alarms, and there are some key indicators placed in locations where operators cannot see them”.
Ergonomics experts were called in to give a crash course to Nuclear Regulatory Commission managers, engineers and scientists. And a panel investigating other plants found “haphazard” control rooms to be a widespread problem. In the US and abroad, the accident led to improved instrumentation and better control rooms.
In the UK, the Central Electricity Generating Board became aware of the importance of ergonomics in the late 1950s, and recruited a specialist to design the control room at Trawsfynydd Nuclear Power Plant. This proved a success, and ergonomics became central to control room design.