When are human body dimensions required for the purposes of design?

Whenever a human (working) environment and/or a product with which human beings come into contact are developed/designed, an interface is created between the human being and the (technical) environment. Anthropometric data are required in such cases for optimum design.

Anthropometric data are required and used particularly often for the design of clothing, workstations, personal protective equipment, and human-machine interfaces. Besides the design of products to be ergonomic and comfortable, consideration must often also be given to aspects of occupational safety. Since anthropometric data presents certain risks of being used incorrectly – examples are the selection of incorrect body dimensions, use of the body dimensions of an inadequate user population (e.g. of unsuitable age), or failure to consider clothing – knowledge of the circumstances enables you to avoid such incorrect use of anthropometric data.

Experience in the field has shown that the technical facilities for personal adjustment of office workstations (facility for adjustment of office chairs and desks) already enable the workstation to be adjusted perfectly to the requirements of the individual user.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) is usually available in systems of sizes and types. In this case, the variability of body dimensions is taken into account by the development of optimized size categories, which ensure the best possible fit for the individual user. Many components of personal protective equipment, such as respiratory masks, are in direct contact with the human body, and clothing etc. thus has less of an influence upon the body dimensions used.

The design of machinery and production areas is often much more complex. The following aspects must therefore be considered when anthropometric data are used:

  • The body dimensions of individual users vary, owing to the need for mobility during the work processes.
  • Multiple body dimensions are usually relevant.
  • Each product is intended not only for one specific user, but for a frequently changing group of users.
  • Requirements relating to safety and optimum ergonomics must frequently be combined, and addressed in the correct sequence or hierarchy.

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