Saturday, December 6, 2008

Safety Saturdays

Ergonomics is the interaction between a person and his/her environment (equipment, machinery, tools, etc.). Ergonomics is not a regulated term in Canada, and I don't believe it's regulated in the USA. I have no idea about Britain. What are the implications of an unregulated term? It means any company can make any item and call it "ergonomically correct". But in reality, ergonomically correct means something is right for you. For example, my ergonomically correct computer station will probably not be ergonomically correct for you.

Ergonomics is essential in any interaction between a person, machine, thing or the environment. Here are some examples:
-Road signs are large, with a large, clear font, and often very few words. These features ensure signs are easily visible to, and understood by, motorists (reducing distraction and making the roads safer). Road signs have been designed (ergonomically) to minimize distraction and confusion to drivers.
-In new cars, the spedometer is often higher up on the dashboard than it used to be. By being closer to the windshield, you reduce the amount of time your eyes are off the road (making you a safer driver). Dashboards are often designed to be used by the average driver with minimal distraction, reducing the time your eyes are off the road.
-Good office chairs should be adjustable: by height (for shorter/taller people); by backrest height (that bump goes in the "nook" of your back, but not everyone's "nook" is in the same spot); and even the armrest height (our arms aren't all the same length). Remember how I said the term "ergonomics" is not regulated? Anyone can make a chair and call it "ergonomically correct".
-Some power tools are designed in such a way to reduce the weight, balance, or vibration of the tool. All these factors make the tool easier to use and reduce the risk of injuries.

Next up ... Interacting with your computer! (Later today)

1 comment:

Krista said...

I am not an ergonomist. Although the term "ergonomist" is not regulated (meaning anyone can call him/herself an ergonomist, regardless of background), an ergonomist should typically have a degree in kinesiology, human kinetics, occupational health, or other related fields. In addition, there is an optional registration with standardized testing that ergonomists can use to have their skills recognized (such as this or this or this).

Although my background is in occupational health (aka health & safety), which included coursework in ergonomics, and I have some experience in ergonomics, I do not consider my knowledge enough that I could qualify as an ergonomist.

If you do have concerns, the type of healthcare professional you can contact could be a physiotherapist, an occupational therapist, an optometrist/optician, a physician, or a nurse practitioner.