Why Ergonomics?

illustration of an object positioned too high for a person

I am embarking on the promotion of ergonomics! Why?

Because the word Ergonomics is overused and I want to clarify its meaning and restore its role in applied sciences for having a beneficial effect on human health. I also want to explain the relationship between humans and the products in function of the environments in which they operate.

This is important because modern society has brought us a way of life where postures have changed from dynamic and varied to static and repeated resulting in musculoskeletal disorders that could be avoided by applying ergonomics best practices.

Let’s start by defining ergonomics. Ergonomics is the study of the human interactions between objects, machines, and environments,  especially focusing on health, well-being, and efficiency. Ergonomics help facilitates operations while reducing risk and promoting productivity.

We have all had a so-called ergonomic product in our hands at some point in our lives. Was this product ergonomic? If the product is ideally suited for a man of average height but causes problems when used by a small woman, this product is not considered ergonomic.

The ergonomics of the product must be appropriate and satisfy a large portion of the population, that is, the product must be ergonomic for people of various sizes and strengths. We define the choice of the population having access to the product by anthropometric measurements. For example, by defining the range of the population that will be using this product, which is generally between the 5th percentile female to the 95th percentile male.

Acknowledging that ergonomics must meet a range of users while preserving the intended characteristics of the use of the product, such as respecting strengths, postures, range, visibility, etc. for all users, how do you know when the characteristics of the product are not met for a specific individual or group of users? You would know by following ergonomics standards and guidelines which are based on scientific studies developed over the years by researchers from universities and the private sector. The purpose of these studies is to determine the risks related to repetitive movements, to the forces applied according to the postures of the different users.

The more quantitative characteristics of ergonomics mentioned above should also be complemented with qualitative information on the Human-environment relation. How are people using the objects, is the stress level increased by using the environment, is the visual qualities of the environment causing errors, or are the people taking movements breaks regularly?

All these elements are addressed by a certified ergonomist using scientific knowledge combined with practice to the benefits of human health.

The ergonomist determines the level of risk associated with the use of a product in its environment to prevent injuries and correct the situations where injuries are already present. Ergonomics services are a safe bet to correct precarious situations even before damage is observed. Ergonomics is a fundamental health discipline that also saves costs and aid staff retention, therefore a truly value-added benefit.

I am curious, I would like to hear about some examples of so-called ergonomics products that didn’t meet your expectations?