Ergonomics – human factors –
user-centred design

The discipline of ergonomics (also known as human factors or user-centred design) is aimed at ensuring that the design of products, processes and environments results in optimised performance, safety and wellbeing of the user. Its principles and concepts are outlined in the basic reference standards for ergonomics and ergonomists, BS EN ISO 26800. Human-system interaction or HCI is covered in all aspects, through the many parts of BS EN ISO 9241, including human-centred design, BS EN ISO 9241-210, dialogue principles, BS EN ISO 9241-110, and guidance on software accessibility, BS EN ISO 9241-171.

There are several hundred relevant British Standards to help ergonomists and the organizations they support. All are the result of a consensus-based process which draws on the collective wisdom of technical experts in the interaction of people with products, systems or processes, and research evidence on the strengths and abilities of people. PD CEN ISO/TR 7250-2 provides statistical summaries of body measurements from different populations. At any time a number of standards are at various stages of development from idea to drafts for public comment.

The UK Applied Ergonomics committee, PH/9, mirrors activity undertaken in European (CEN/TC122) and international (ISO/TC159) Technical Committees, with sub committees for Anthropometry and Biomechanics, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and the Physical environment.  But many other Technical Committees are also relevant, look these up here

Physical environment

Factors such as high or low temperatures, humidity and noise levels in the work place have an effect on the comfort, health and safety of workers, which in turn, can contribute to the efficiency and effectiveness of operations. Relevant BS EN ISO standards cover thermal environments in relation to factors such as comfort (BS EN ISO 7730), heat (BS EN ISO 7933) and cold stress (BS EN ISO 11079) and occupational noise exposure (BS EN ISO 9612).

Healthcare and Medical ergonomics

An increasingly important area of standardization relates to healthcare and medical devices with topics such as symbols for labelling medical devices, BS EN ISO 15223-1, to good clinical practice in their use, BS EN ISO 14155. Work is currently underway to revise the standard on the application of usability engineering to medical devices, BS EN 62366.


Whether in the home or the workplace, there is a legal, moral and economic need to take account of the needs of older and disabled people in the design of products, services and environments and that is becoming even more important as the population ages. There is a wide range of standards, many of which are currently in development or under review. These include Accessible buildings BS 8300, under review; Easy to open packaging BS ISO 17480, a revised version of which will be available from May 2015; Inclusive Services BS 18477, under review, Website accessibility BS 8878, under review, Wheelchair Passport BS 8603, and many others, see here. The most recent addition is the free-to-download  ISO/IEC Guide 71 on Accessibility. Comprehensive Ergonomics data for older and disabled people, PD CEN ISO/TR 22411, can be used to assist in the application of ISO/IEC Guide 71. Forthcoming standards include the new PAS on Dementia friendly communities, sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Society, to be published soon. Progress on the new European Standard on Design for All can be followed through DES/1, the UK mirror committee.

Occupational health & safety

Organizations are under constant pressure to demonstrate sound occupational safety and show that their health and safety management systems are up to standard. BS OHSAS 18002 helps organizations to implement an effective occupational health and safety management system that can be integrated with other management operations. Work is underway in ISO to develop an international standard, ISO 45001; progress on this standard and other management systems standards can be followed by signing up for revisions updates. Psychosocial risks in work environments can be a major cause of stress, PAS 1010 gives practical guidance on the management of such risks. The PAS is currently being considered for progression to a BS or ISO standard.

Nuclear ergonomics

A range of standards have been developed , relating to control rooms in nuclear power plants. These include control room design, BS EN 60964, alarm systems to provide the operator with adequate information and avoid operator misunderstandings, BS IEC 62241, VDUs, BS EN 61772 and operator controls, BS IEC 61227.

Smart cities

Smart cities are all about the people who live in them, their needs and requirements. Following the development of a UK strategy for a coherent, consistent suite of standards covering decision making to terminology and interoperability, several standards have been published and others are in development. Find out more about Smart Cities standards.

Influencing the boardroom

Human value management, BS 76000, a broad-based management system standard designed around the value of people in the workplace, is due for publication soon.  Work is underway in ISO committees, mirrored by PH/9, to provide guidance for executive boards and those managing ergonomics on maximising wellbeing and minimising human based risks for the organization - BS ISO 27501. With respect to corporate social  responsibility, two standards, BS ISO 26000 and BS 8900 increase confidence in the integrity of the business and provide a sustainable procurement strategy for supply-chain risk.

A standard on organizational governance, BS 13500, sets out a system that integrates fundamental principles of direction and accountability – read our organizational case studies. A framework specification and associated guidance for collaboration between organizations to foster innovation, improve operations and efficiency, and build sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships, BS 11000-1 and BS 11000-2, is now being taken into ISO. 


Free guidance, PD ISO/IEC Guide 50, on child development and behaviour, safe environments for children and relevant hazards, helps to ensure that standards take account of child safety, whether or not the end product is intended for use by children. Aimed at standards developers the document is also useful to ergonomists and designers. Other standards include: safety guidelines for child use and care articles PD CEN/TR 13387, child-resistant packaging BS EN ISO 8317, where work is in hand, pen tops, BS 7272-2, school furniture, BS EN 1729-2, and usability evaluation BS ISO 29061-1 and reduction of misuse BS ISO 13215-1 of child restraint systems in road vehicles.