12/03/2004

Ergonomic Economics

Sorting out the good (products) from the bad

 

Ergo Risk Factors


The National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) provides this list of primary ergonomic risk factors for workers:

  • Force – The amount of pressure or force a particular action requires. For example, striking a keyboard requires a certain amount of force by the fingers and related muscles.
  • Frequency – How often a particular action occurs, otherwise known as repetition.
  • Vibration – The vibration of large motors and heavy equipment can be detrimental, especially when combined with the other risk factors.
  • Posture – Awkward postures, especially for office workers, represent one of the most significant ergonomic risk factors
  • Temperature – Extreme temperatures, whether hot or cold, can exacerbate the effects of the other risk factors.

Understanding these common risk factors can help in evaluating a product’s ability to counteract their debilitating effects. The most ergonomic designs should help users avoid awkward postures.

Ergonomics. It’s the biggest buzzword in offices today, and a whole industry is being built around it.

 

Consider the abundance of products claiming to be ergonomic –  from chairs and workstations, to keyboards, writing utensils, and even lighting. But how can you sort out the good from the bad? What makes one product more ergonomic than another?

Facilities managers often must answer these questions, especially as they work with end-users in solving real workplace issues. Large corporate end-users are likely to have their own certified professional ergonomist (CPE), safety engineer, or industrial hygienist, but mid-sized companies and small businesses often rely on the expertise of furniture dealers and professional organizations when it comes to selecting ergonomic products for the office.

 

A Common-Sense Approach

Dr. Jerome Congleton, a certified professional ergonomist at College Station, TX-based Texas A&M University’s School of Rural Public Health, says that common sense should be your guide. Whether you’re selecting office seating, worksurfaces, or computer equipment and accessories, the human factor is the key element of ergonomic intuition. Is the product comfortable after you’ve used it for several hours? Is it intuitive in the way it operates, or does it require instruction or even training in order to be used correctly?

“Think about what makes sense,” Congleton points out. “Look for features like soft, rounded edges and corners to prevent pressure points. Also, consider smooth materials with tactile feedback, and intuitive controls that a pictogram can explain. In terms of monitors and electronic products, make sure they are non-glare and low in VOC emission, and are flexible and adjustable.”

 

Martha Parker, CPE and owner of MERG Ergonomics in Houston, recommends a very simple test for determining a product’s ergonomic integrity: “Ask yourself whether the product is going to fit a wide variety of employee shapes and sizes. Any ergonomic product – whether it’s a desk, chair, keyboard, monitor, or accessory item – should be able to be used by workers ranging in size from the fifth percentile female (4 feet, 11 inches tall; 113 pounds) to the 95th percentile male (6 feet, 2 inches tall; 246 pounds).”

 

What this basically means is that for many products, adjustability is a must. Chairs, workstations/desks, keyboard trays, and monitor arms must all be extremely adjustable to accommodate the wide variety of worker shapes and sizes that exist. And in terms of adjustability, more is usually better.

 

Worth It? You Bet.

Manufacturers who build more adjustability into their products must typically charge more to cover the increased manufacturing costs.

 

“Companies can expect to pay 20-percent to 25-percent more for highly adjustable products,” Parker admits. “But, what seems like a higher expense actually results in savings over a period of months rather than years.”

 

Congleton also points out that ergonomic products are the wave of the future.

“If I’m an end-user, and I’m concerned with issues of productivity and employee health and risk management, don’t you think I’m going to be drawn to a truly ergonomic product?” Congleton asks. “They translate to real, bottom-line dollars in terms of increased productivity, decreased absenteeism, long-term functionality and usefulness of products, and a host of issues like that.”

 

Mark Taylor is owner of Texas-based Taylor Creative, a private marketing firm that specializes in organization development and marketing. He is a 15-year veteran of the ergonomics manufacturing industry and can be contacted via e-mail at (mark@taylorcreativemarketing.com).

 


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

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Add highly responsive multi-zone comfort to any building project, in any climate. Our CITY MULTI H2i R2- and Y-Series VRF systems give you flexibility to fit the needs of any building. Enjoy 100% heating capacity at 0°F outdoor ambient, and 85% heating capacity at -13°F outdoor ambient.  For more information, log on to www.mitsubishipro.com


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Add highly responsive multi-zone comfort to any building project, in any climate. Our CITY MULTI H2i R2- and Y-Series VRF systems give you flexibility to fit the needs of any building. Enjoy 100% heating capacity at 0°F outdoor ambient, and 85% heating capacity at -13°F outdoor ambient.  For more information, log on to www.mitsubishipro.com

 
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