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The term ergonomics comes from the Greek word ergon, meaning work. The study of people at work began about 110 years ago as employers and employees began to realize that job productivity was tied to job satisfaction and the nature of the work environment. The concerns of many of the early ergonomists centered around increasing industrial production while maintaining safety on the job. They began to design machines and other equipment that improved production and also reduced the number of job-related accidents. As it became clear that improved working conditions increased productivity and safety and improved workers' morale, ergonomists began investigating other physical and psychological factors that influenced people at work.

Today, with the world of work constantly changing and workplaces using computers and other forms of automation, there is a need for professionals to help adapt the workplace to these changes. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that musculoskeletal disorders caused by ergonomic problems in the workplace affect 1.8 million workers a year. This costs businesses billions in lost workdays, workers compensation, and related costs. Most major insurance carriers today have ergonomics departments. The ergonomist can help businesses develop methods that will more humanely adapt the workplace to technological changes and also prepare the workplace for the different types of jobs and other changes that are sure to come.

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