A small army of ergonomists is part of the United States Army mission to ensure soldiers are not at risk from themselves, their equipment and the systems that control their operations. Providing soldiers with what they need to perform at peak efficiency is a parallel demand, and there are almo.st no areas of human factors and ergonomics research untouched by the mission.
A glance at the array of topics presented by and for military researchers at the 2005 conference of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES) is a clear indication of the range of the mission. The list of military-related topics covers many of the same issues that bedevil the civilian population, such as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), flawed communications, poor work schedule design and stress. The challenge for ergonomists who tackle issues like these in a military context is that battlefield conditions must be built into solutions. The extremes of combat push risk factors into a different league. Stress? Consider the terror of operating complicated machinery or interpreting displays when under fire. And tanks and other military vehicles are rolling risk factors for MSDs
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2005-11-16.