Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Ergonomics - Growing Pains or Just Misunderstood?

Defining ergonomics ...

"A Misunderstood Profession
In a recent article at PCMag.com, "Ergonomics is a Crock", Lance Ulanoff questions the validity of ergonomics after having a bad experience using a new keyboard. In the manufacturer’s hopes of making a sell, Ulanoff’s old keyboard was traded out for the new without his knowledge or consent. Because the keyboard was labeled as ergonomic, Ulanoff confused the provision of the keyboard with having received an ergonomic intervention. In all reality, the only thing that he received was a sales pitch.

No one can question that following basic ergonomic principles will help improve comfort and productivity in the workplace. Yet lately, the profession seems to be gaining a bad reputation with articles such as these. As the profession of ergonomics goes through its current transformation, it is important to look to the roots and basic tenets of the profession so that it prospers.

A Brief History of Ergonomics
Early in the evolution of humankind, man began developing tools to help make life easier. Some consider this early use of tools to be the beginning of ergonomics. The science of ergonomics took a step forward in the early 1700s when Ramazzini, the founder of occupational and industrial medicine, recognized that specific occupations caused musculoskeletal hazards. And the science of ergonomics evolved once again in the late 1800s and the early 1900s during the Industrial Revolution when the development of the steam engine and the concept of mass production led to the popularity of Scientific Management, the process of improving worker productivity by improving the job process. The rapid advent of technology, the epidemic of musculoskeletal injuries in the 1990s, and legislative and financial drives have currently created a huge demand for ergonomic services.

Ergonomic Growing Pains
Unfortunately, the term “ergonomic” seems to have recently become synonymous with the provision of equipment rather than with an injury-prevention process. In the quest to market equipment, we have meandered away from the basic ergonomic guidelines. Yet, ergonomics is not about equipment - although using the right equipment can certainly help us implement ergonomic principles and allow us to work more efficiently and safely.

Ergonomics is about creating a user-friendly environment in which to work. More specifically, it is about looking at individuals and assessing their needs, their safety, and their comfort as they perform their jobs. Although the job may be the same, the environment and equipment appropriate for a 5 foot 2 petite female will vary from that of a 6 foot 2 muscular male. The goal for both, of course, is improved productivity with reduced risk of injury.

Definition of Ergonomics
In 1857, Wojciech Jastrzebowski, a Polish biologist and scholar, coined the term “ergonomics” - derived from the Greek words ergon (work) and nomos (principle or law). Merriam-Webster Online defines ergonomics as an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely. ErgoWeb’s definition of ergonomics takes a more proactive and comprehensive approach to injury prevention: “Ergonomics removes barriers to quality, productivity and safe human performance in human-machine systems by fitting products, equipment, tools, systems, tasks, jobs and environments to people."    (Continued via Marji Hajic, Bella Online)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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2 Comments:

Anonymous Safe Computing Tips said...

Hello Usernomics

Ergonomics is a discipline that involves arranging the environment to fit the person in it. When ergonomics is applied correctly in the work environment, visual and musculoskeletal discomfort and fatigue are reduced significantly.

In recent years, CDC’s Office of Health and Safety has identified repetitive motion injuries as a factor in employee injuries. These injuries are caused by excessive and repeated physical stress on the musculoskeletal system - the hands, wrists, elbow, shoulders, neck, and back.

Following ergonomic principles helps reduce stress and eliminate many potential injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repeated tasks. This is accomplished by designing tasks, work spaces, controls, displays, tools, lighting, and equipment to fit the employee’s physical capabilities and limitations.

Resource

5:48 AM  
Blogger Usernomics said...

Thanks for the information. I am sure our readers will find a lot of good information on the CDC site.

12:38 PM  

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