A list of frequently asked questions and answers to them is provided below. The list should not be considered exhaustive.

What are anthropometric data, and why are they often difficult to apply in practice?

Anthropometric dimensions are body dimensions measured in a standardized body posture on anatomically strictly defined measurement paths. In other words, measurement is performed in body postures that human beings seldom adopt voluntarily. This form of standardization is nevertheless necessary in order to make the dimensions of the human body comparable and reproducible. Any discrete dimension stated in a table is valid only within its more complex biological context.

What do I do when I am unable to find the dimension I need for my design?

Publications of anthropometric data – i.e. including standards – are collections of dimensions that should not be considered exhaustive. They represent collections of the most important absolute and functional dimensions of the human body. They can be used for a wide range of purposes; owing to the growing diversity of design, however, they fail to satisfy all purposes.

What dimensions are needed by the designer? This question is crucial to the humane design of the environment in immediate proximity to the human body. In specific cases, it may therefore be necessary for qualified experts to be tasked with measuring particular dimensions.

Why do I need safety dimensions?

Safety dimensions are dimensions that are intended to ensure that factors relevant to safety and health within the person's working environment (e.g. a machine workstation), such as limits for reaches or openings, cannot be violated. As standard, the 99th and 1st percentiles of the body dimension concerned are to be observed for safety dimensions. This is also required by EN 614-11. In some standards, an allowance is added for this purpose to the relevant values derived from anthropometric data. For example, EN 547-1 (Safety of machinery – Human body measurements – Part 1: Principles for determining the dimensions required for openings for whole body access into machinery) specifies the value of the 95th/99th percentile of the elbow-elbow distance plus a safety distance y for a horizontal opening. This is just one of the allowances that must be added to the anthropometric dimensions in order to ensure safety and health during use of the access opening in accordance with EN 547-3. The allowances cannot always simply be added together, since the conditions overlap in some cases.

Safety dimensions of openings through which persons should not reach or crawl are generally geared to values for adults; children and young people may exhibit lower values, depending upon the age group.

What do I do when standards contain dimensions of uncertain origin? For example: What is the source of the population studied? When was it measured?

The origin of the data is crucial to their suitability for use, particularly when a certain target group is to be considered during design. Where uncertainties exist, it is advisable for the responsible national or international standards committee to be consulted.

Why should body dimensions be as recent as possible?

Owing to the continual changes in living and environmental conditions, the body dimensions of a population change from one generation to the next. Since these changes cannot be predicted, currently valid anthropometric data must be recorded at regular intervals.

Why do I need different data for different age groups, even among adults?

Even during adulthood, human body dimensions are far from constant. For example, whereas the length dimensions of the individual long bones remain largely unchanged, the ability of a joint between two individual bones to stretch may change, as a result of which length dimensions also change. Circumferential dimensions, too, change between younger and older adulthood.

What is a unisex model?

The unisex model is a form of presentation of data for both men and women. In the unisex model, all test subjects in a random sample under analysis are merged to form a single group, and analysed irrespective of sex. The percentiles stated for the individual body dimensions thus cover both women and men.

It must be taken into account that the results of unisex surveys reflect a narrower dimensional range than those of separate surveys by sex. For example, the value for the 5th percentile of a body height surveyed as a unisex random sample would be higher than the 5th percentile solely of the women in the same random sample. In the same way, the value for the 95th percentile of the unisex random sample would be lower than that for the 95th percentile solely of the men in the same random sample (see Unisex model, Figure: Percentile distribution in the unisex model and surveyed separately by sex, with reference to the example of the body height).

What are skeletal (skeleton-based) dimensions or bone dimensions?

The skeletal dimensions (bone dimensions) are the body dimensions measured directly at bony landmarks forming part of the skeleton. Bone dimensions of the "long bones" on arms and legs and the bone dimensions on the skull remain virtually unchanged once the growth phase has been completed. Bone dimensions are variable when they include joints that lose their full ability to stretch with advancing age.

A substantial change is exhibited by bone dimensions that include the spine. With advancing age, the intervertebral discs increasingly lose their ability to store fluid, and thus also lose their resilience. An increase in physiological curvature of the spine in advanced age must also be anticipated. These length dimensions are therefore lower in older persons than when they were in young adulthood.

Why are circumferential dimensions so changeable?

Circumferential dimensions are among the "obesity dimensions". They may change over the course of a lifetime. The circumferential dimensions are used to measure both the body's muscle content and its fat content. Both of these contents may vary widely over short periods of time as a consequence of personal exercise and/or dietary habits.

On average, adults become fatter with increasing age. However, the population is now also fatter on average than it was in the past, and will in future in all certainty become fatter still.

What are body types?

Despite the wide variation between human beings, two basic body types can broadly be distinguished. Human body typology differentiates between the comparatively slim, tall types (leptosomes) and the comparatively round, squat types (pyknics). These two types constitute the extremes of a basic spectrum, however; numerous transitional forms are encountered within the population.

What are "seated giants" and "seated dwarfs"?

These two terms describe the different possible morphological forms taken by the human body. Two people may have identical body heights (e.g. 1,730 mm), yet differ considerably in their body types, i.e. their physical proportions. The term "seated giant" describes a person with a proportionally long trunk and short legs, the term "seated dwarf" a person with a proportionally short trunk and long legs.

Proportionally long legs do not necessarily result in great body height. Seated giants and seated dwarfs may be encountered in all percentile groups.

What is the "secular trend"/"secular acceleration"?

The terms secular acceleration and secular trend describe changes to the human body between an older generation (born earlier) and a younger generation. Besides the increase in the body dimensions, the physical changes also include earlier attainment by young people of biological maturity. For the purposes of ergonomics, the focus lies upon differences in the length dimensions. Recent observations permit the assumption that the secular increase in length dimensions for future generations is gradually coming to an end.

The obesity dimensions (circumferential and breadth dimensions) are also subject to secular development. It is more likely that these dimensions will increase in future successive generations (secular trend) than that the trend will peter out.

What is meant by the mean value and the standard deviation?

The (arithmetic) mean of a random sample describes the average value of all discrete values measured. The mean is calculated by division of the sum of all observations by the number of observations. The standard deviation is a measure of the scatter. It describes how the individual values of a random sample lie around the mean value. For a body dimension that is normally distributed, the single standard deviation describes 68.3% of the recorded values located around the mean, the double standard deviation 95.5% of the values, and the triple standard deviation 99.7% of the values.

The mean and the standard deviation are statistical parameters that may be used solely for normally distributed body dimensions.

What are percentiles?

Percentiles are indicators that divide the incidences of a body dimension under analysis into 100 parts according to the associated values. In other words, the values are placed in an ordered sequence. A percentile indicates what percentage of the subjects studied attain the dimension in question. The 50th percentile for example, which corresponds to the median, describes the fact that 50% of the discrete observations exhibit values that are lower than or equal to the value concerned, and 50% of the discrete observations exhibit higher values. The 5th, 50th and 95th percentiles have become established as thresholds suitable for use in practice, and cover a dimensional range encompassing 90% of the random population sample.

Percentiles state only the percentage distribution of a body dimension in a random population sample. The percentile values are very unlikely to represent an entire studied population.

What is the difference between an (arithmetic) mean and a 50th percentile (median)?

Both values are statistical tools that characterize a random sample. The mean is the average value for the entire sample. If the values are normally distributed, the mean (arithmetic mean) is identical to the 50th percentile. Where present, strongly deviating outliers influence the mean. The 50th percentile, the median, is a mean incidence corresponding to the 50th component of the discrete observations. The percentile of 50 indicates that 50% of the discrete observations exhibit values that are lower than or equal to the value concerned.

Whereas the mean need not necessarily be a value that actually exists, the median is a value actually measured on a human being.

Is it permissible to add the percentiles of discrete body dimensions together in order to obtain a desired body dimension?

Categorically not. Percentiles are values denoting incidences; they describe a group of persons under analysis, not an individual. Whereas the summation of values for an individual is permissible, the summation of percentiles yields results that over- or under-represent the calculated value of the dimension. The use of percentiles to calculate body proportions is also not permissible.

What prompted development of this guide? What was the objective?

In 2009, the Commission for Occupational Health and Safety and Standardization (KAN) published Report 44, "Anthropometric data in standards". The report underscores the importance of anthropometric data for occupational safety and health, and makes a number of recommendations for action. A key recommendation is made to DIN: that it develop a guide for users of anthropometric data to applying such data, both during design tasks and during the development of product standards.

In response, the Steering Committee of DIN Standards Committee Ergonomics issued a recommendation to the responsible committee (Anthropometry and Biomechanics) that it develop a user guide in the form of a DIN SPEC describing the correct selection and use of anthropometric data in lay persons' terms. Since the committee has requested support from KAN and KAN has considered the undertaking very beneficial for the design of ergonomic work equipment, KAN has commissioned production of a draft of such a guide.

The draft was forwarded to the responsible national standards committee with a view to it being published in a suitable form following further editing. Its publication in the form of an online guide emerged as an advantageous option in the course of the project.

During implementation of the concept, importance was attached to easily comprehensible flow charts and text being used wherever possible.

What further literature is available?

  • Annals of Human Biology. - informa healthcare
  • Anthropologischer Anzeiger - Journal of Biological and Clinical Anthropology.- Schweizerbartsche Verlagsbuchhandlung (Nägele u. Obermiller)
  • Applied Ergonomics - Human Factors in Technology and Society.- Elsevier Ltd.
  • Ergonomics.- Taylor & Francis
  • Flügel, B.; Greil, H.; Sommer, K. (1986): Anthropologischer Atlas.- Edition Wötzel.- Frankfurt/Main
  • Gebhardt, H.; Schäfer, A.; Lang, K.-H.: KAN-Bericht 44 - Anthropometrische Daten in Normen - Bestandsaufnahme und Bedarfsanalyse unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Arbeitsschutzes. Hrsg. Verein zur Förderung der Arbeitssicherheit in Europa e.V. (VFA) Bonn Juli 2009
  • Greil, H. (2001): Wie weit sind wir der DIN 33402 entwachsen?.- Brandenburgische Umwelt Berichte (BUB).- Potsdam.- S. 7−22.
  • Greil, H.; Voigt, A.; Scheffler, C. (2008): Optimierung der ergonomischen Eigenschaften von Produkten für ältere Arbeitnehmer und Arbeitnehmerinnen - Anthropometrie.- Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin.- Dortmund, Berlin, Dresden
  • Jaeger, U. (1998): Secular trend in Germany.- In: Bodzsár, É.B.; Susanne, C. (ed.).-Secular growth change in Europa.- Eötvös University Press.- Budapest
  • Jürgens, H.W.; Aune, I.A.; Pieper, U. (1989): Internationaler anthropometrischer Datenatlas.- Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz.- Wirtschaftsverlag NW, Verlag für neue Wirtschaft GmbH.-Bremerhaven
  • Lange, W.; Windel, A. (2003): Kleine ergonomische Datensammlung.- Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin.- TÜV-Verlag.- Köln
  • Schmidke, H. (1989): In Handbuch der Ergonomie.- Hrsg. Bundesamt für Wehrtechnik und Beschaffung.- Koblenz- Datenstand von 1999


  • DIN 5566-1 „Schienenfahrzeuge - Führerräume - Teil 1: Allgemeine Anforderungen“, Ausgabedatum 2020-05
  • DIN 33402-1 „Ergonomie - Körpermaße des Menschen – Teil 1: Begriffe, Messverfahren, Ausgabedatum 2008-03
  • DIN 33402-2 „Ergonomie - Körpermaße des Menschen - Teil 2: Werte“; Ausgabedatum 2020-12
  • DIN 33408-1 „Körperumrissschablonen - Teil 1: Für Sitzplätze“, Ausgabedatum 2008-03, ergänzt durch Beiblatt 1
  • DIN 33408 Beiblatt 1 Körperumrissschablonen für Sitzplätze; Anwendungsbeispiele, Ausgabedatum 1987-01
  • Zurückgezogen: DIN 33419 „Allgemeine Grundlagen der ergonomischen Prüfung von Produktentwürfen und Industrieerzeugnissen“, Ausgabedatum 1993-02
  • DIN EN 547-1: „Sicherheit von Maschinen - Körpermaße des Menschen - Teil 1: Grundlagen zur Bestimmung von Abmessungen für Ganzkörper-Zugänge an Maschinenarbeitsplätzen“; Ausgabedatum 2009-01
  • DIN EN 547-3 „Sicherheit von Maschinen - Körpermaße des Menschen - Teil 3: Körpermaßdaten“; Ausgabedatum 2009-01 (Deutsche Fassung EN 547-3:1996+A1:2008)
  • DIN EN 614-1 „Sicherheit von Maschinen - Ergonomische Gestaltungsgrundsätze - Teil 1: Begriffe und allgemeine Leitsätze“, Ausgabedatum 2009-06
  • DIN EN ISO 3411: „Erdbaumaschinen - Körpermaße von Maschinenführern und Mindestfreiraum“; Ausgabedatum 2007-11; geändert durch Berichtigung 1 (2008-01) und Berichtigung 2 (2009-01)
  • DIN EN ISO 7250-1 „Wesentliche Maße des menschlichen Körpers für die technische Gestaltung - Teil 1: Körpermaßdefinitionen und –messpunkte“; Ausgabedatum 2017-12
  • DIN CEN ISO/TR 7250-2 „Wesentliche Maße des menschlichen Körpers für die technische Gestaltung - Teil 2: Anthropometrische Datenbanken einzelner nationaler Bevölkerungen“; Ausgabedatum 2013-08 (Ausgabe von 2011 mit Änderung A1 von 2013)
  • DIN EN ISO 11064-3 „Ergonomische Gestaltung von Leitzentralen - Teil 3: Auslegung von Wartenräumen“; Ausgabedatum 2000-09, geändert durch Berichtigung 1 von 2003-06
  • DIN EN ISO 14738: „Sicherheit von Maschinen - Anthropometrische Anforderungen an die Gestaltung von Maschinenarbeitsplätzen“, Ausgabedatum 2020-05
  • DIN EN ISO 15537 „Grundsätze für die Auswahl und den Einsatz von Prüfpersonen zur Prüfung anthropometrischer Aspekte von Industrieerzeugnissen und deren Gestaltung“; Ausgabedatum 2022-08
  • DIN EN ISO 20685 „3D-Scanverfahren für international kompatible anthropometrische Datenbanken“, Ausgabedatum 2022-09
  • DIN SPEC 33402-5 „Ergonomie - Körpermaße des Menschen - Untersuchung der Verfahren zur Hochrechnung und Abschätzung von Körpermaßdaten“, Ausgabedatum 2010-11

1 From DIN EN 614-1:2009 (Safety of machinery – Ergonomic design principles – Part 1: Terminology and general principles): "Where health and safety aspects are important, wider percentile ranges shall be used, according to the risk assessment, at least to the 1st and/or 99th percentiles."


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