People vary in many ways: physically, mentally, personality, knowledge and experience.
- Physical differences are the most obvious. People have different body shapes and sizes, different levels of strength and capabilities
- Vision, hearing and manual dexterity can also vary widely and in some cases eg where colour vision or visual acuity is important it is necessary to test people's capabilities
- Mental abilities vary but can only really be assessed accurately using psychological testing – which is usually only important where the work is critical and demands that the right people are selected
- People also have different personalities, which can make a difference to the type of work that they are suited to and may be important where there are specific safety requirements
- Finally, people have different knowledge and experience on which to draw.
The design of the job, the equipment, information and work environment should all take account of individual capabilities and limitations, as far as is reasonably practicable. Where aspects of performance in the job are critical, it is usual to specify the individual characteristics being sought and then to try and select the best suited applicant for the job. People need to have the right knowledge, skills and abilities to be able to carry out their work effectively and safely. They also need to have the appropriate attitudes and awareness of the risks in order to work in a safe manner. Therefore making sure you select the right people for the job is important but it is also necessary to ensure they have the appropriate training and personal development if they are to work efficiently and safely. It is easier to develop skills and change attitudes than it is to alter personality.
It is also important to ensure that the workplace is adapted as far as is necessary to support rather than hinder people's task performance. When people are recruited, or change their jobs, it is sensible to check if any adaptations to the workplace would make it easier for them to do the job and reduce the risk of human error, injury or ill-health as well as increasing their efficiency or productivity.
People with disabilities have particular needs. From an ergonomics perspective a disability is simply another individual difference to be taken into account when designing the work system. However, there are specific legal requirements which need to be met. More information and advice is available by following the link below.