INTRODUCTION TO ERGONOMICS
As in all sciences, the study of ergonomics is believed to have started with human evolution itself. It has been a quest to find a natural fit between humans and their tools. Just like prehistoric men developed tools to fit their needs, for hunting, eating, sitting and sleeping. With time tools were engineered with an understanding of how we us them and to make them better. As time has passed by engineers have developed tools that fit the humans need, in return they developed better chairs for sitting, mats for standing on, even automobiles have improved for seating. Some people do not know what ergonomics is so here is a brief explanation. The term ergonomics came up in the writings of (Wojciech Jastrzebowski, 1857). In the 19th century, Fredric Winslow Taylor introduced ‘Scientific Management’ proposing ways to improve productivity in factories. Ergonomics is a complex science of a combination of physics, biology, psychology, engineering and design (Radoslaw, 2010). The definition of ergonomics is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principals, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance ( International Ergonomics Association, 2009 ). For us workers making sure that the machinery, tools, and furniture associated with a job fit the workers who do that job in a field of engineering called ergonomics, or human engineering. A properly designed workplace can reduce worker fatigue and increase safety on the job (Compton’s encyclopedia, 2009).
As early as the 18th century, doctors noticed that workers whose jobs required them to maintain certain body positions for long periods of time developed musculoskeletal problems. There are two factors at work here: “static work” and “force”. “Static work” refers to the musculoskeletal effort required to hold a certain position, even a comfortable one for long periods of time. Just like sitting for long periods of time at a computer can be stressful on the body. Your back gets stiff, your eyes are strained, and even your hands get tired from all typing. Other stress related problems occur from your neck, from keeping it in one position for long periods. I never thought that this was true until I had been at my own computer for a few hours. I found out that taking a break after an hour or so seemed to help I would stretch my fingers and my back and take a short walk. Through research I found the Alexander Technique by Holly A. Sweeny. The Alexander Technique is not new. It was developed in the early 20th century before ergonomics became a recognized science and has been applied throughout this century by people through all walks of life. The Technique is an educational method which shows people how they misuse their bodies with everyday work habits. It also teaches us how to avoid work habits that force us to use excessive muscular use which can put a toll on our bodies. As we all know everyday work stress is common in all different types of employment, one of the most common work injuries that I have noticed is Carpal Tunnel and Tennis Elbow. The way we work is something we have all developed on our own and now there is a variety of training tools out there for us to use. I found an ergonomics case study on the Dow Chemical Company’s use of the “Six Sigma” Methodology on the U.S. Department of Labor. They stated that in 2002, ergonomics-related injuries accounted for a third of all workplace injuries involving missed work time, with an average absence of nine days per injury. The resulting worker injury claims and loss of productivity are estimated to cost $13 to $20 million per year for U.S. employers. Wow! That’s a lot of money; could you imagine just how much they could save by implementing ergonomics training for their employee’s? After reading more...
References: Designing for Humans. Design Research-Ergonomics-Human Factors-Usability. Retrieved from, http://www.designing for humans.com/isda/anthropometric_data/
Holly A. Sweeny.(1998). How the Alexander Technique can help. Retrieved April 11, 2011, from http://www.alexandertechnique.com/ergonomics.html
Humanic Ergonomics. What is Ergonomics? Retrieved April 11, 2011, from http://www.humanics-es.com/def-erg.htm
Radslaw. (2010). Ergonomics: A History 59. Retrieved April 11, 2011, from http://hubpages.com/hub/Ergonomic_A_History
U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration.
Retrieved April 11, 2011, from http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/index.html
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