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Home>Discover VersaTables> Ergonomics > Solutions > Task Analysis: A Basic Ergonomic Principle

Task Analysis: A Basic Ergonomic Principle


When working to make anything ergonomically sound, task analysis is a concept that you cannot afford to overlook. To accomplish effective task analysis it is important to understand three things: body mechanics, the tool you are interacting with, and the task being performed. Performing a successful task analysis allows you to effectively understand and plan for these three areas.

Task analysis can be extremely detailed and more academic in nature – requiring thoughtful study and descriptive flow chart creation. It can also be performed on a more informal, less stringent basis—facilitating quick efforts to make your workflow more effective and efficient. UsabilityNet.org explains:

“The reader should be aware that task analysis can be a very time consuming activity if used with a high degree of detail on complex problems…”

Such a level of analysis is very worthwhile for institutional-wide policies and procedures, or for especially complicated tasks. Because this principle can save an organization or a user significant time and effort on certain activities, the investment in professional analysis might be worth the return in productivity and lower overhead.

For more informal purposes – the following principle can be applied in a more simplified nature.

Begin By Breaking Things Down

The first step in task analysis is to break things down into their most basic steps. This helps you to identify two key elements. You will be able to articulate what specific human-machine interfaces are present. You can also identify each action required for each step of a process.

The Human Machine Interface

The human-machine interface is a term that refers to how many parts of your physical being will interact with the physical product or setup. For example, when your fingertips come into contact with your keyboard that is human-machine interfacing. In office, school, medical and home settings there are extensive and various human-machine interactions that happen with each and every task you complete.

Steps and Actions

Steps and the actions needed to accomplish those steps are identified in an effective task analysis. By carefully considering each step needed to complete any given process you can identify which step actions will require the most effort and/or time.

This helps you to prioritize your time and activities. It also helps you establish a more efficient sense of organization.

An Example In Action

It is easier to completely understand this concept by considering it in terms of a concrete example. For our purposes, we will use the example of accessing an external hard drive via a personal computer that is already turned on and running.

A simple task analysis would appear in the following way:

Task

  • Plug in and power up the external hard drive

Steps

  • Retrieve the external hard drive from storage
  • Retrieve the connecting cable from storage
  • Uncoil the cable.
  • Correctly orient the cable.
  • Plug the cable into the hard drive.
  • Place the hard drive on your desk in a secure location.
  • Orient the remaining cable end to the PC port.
  • Plug in the cable to the PC.
  • The computer will run a recognition process & automatically install needed drivers.
  • The hard drive will now be available in your computer menu.

Human-Machine Interfaces Present

  • Personal Computer Tower
  • External Hard Drive
  • Connecting Cable
  • Personal Computer Monitor
  • Personal Computer Mouse

Actions

  • Retrieve the external hard drive from storage: use hands and arms to gather and lift the external hard drive. Use back muscles to bend or reach to the storage location.
  • Retrieve the connecting cable from storage: use hands and arms to gather and lift the external hard drive. Use back muscles to bend or reach to the storage location.
  • Uncoil the cable: use hands and arms to unwind the connecting cable.
  • Correctly orient the cable: use hands and arms to correctly position cable.
  • Plug the cable into the hard drive: Use hands and arms to connect the cable.
  • Place the hard drive on your desk in a secure location: use the hands and arms to move the hard drive.
  • Orient the remaining cable end to the PC port: use hands and arms to correctly position the cable.
  • Plug in the cable to the PC: use the hands and arms to insert cable.
  • The computer will run a recognition process & automatically install needed drivers: use the eyes to watch the computer display for confirmation of process and installation.
  • The hard drive will now be available in your computer menu: use the hands and arms to direct the mouse to direct the cursor on the computer screen to access files.

Ergonomics is all about making things as comfortable and efficient as possible. In selecting your office furniture, for example, you should choose pieces designed with ergonomic principles in mind, as they will likely have ample desk space, adjustable features and optional components that will best enable you do your work as efficiently as possible.

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