Ergonomics: What is it?

A glove is made to fit a hand. It’s not meant to fit any hand, though. It fits the hand it was made for. Ergonomics is the theory that makes sure that work places and the work itself fit the people who do the work exactly that way.

Ergonomics as an applied science is very important in the work place, especially with the rising incidence of Repetitive Strain Injuries, like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Designing the work environment using ergonomics is one of the first steps in eliminating, or at least reducing the occurrence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other RSIs.

Let us take something as simple as the chair you sit in. If it is designed according to the principles of ergonomics, when you sit in it, you will be able to achieve the 90-90-90 posture without even trying. That is, your ankle will be bent at 90 degrees, which will mean that your feet are flat on the floor. Your knee will be bent at 90 degrees, as well, which means that the length of the seat should be right. Your hip will also be bent at 90 degrees, with the back rest having the option of reclining to 120 degrees, which is the optimum way of supporting your back while keeping your posture correct. When you keep your arms on the arm rest, your elbow should also be bent at 90 degrees. This will protect your back, your shoulders, your neck and your arms from any musculo-skeletal injuries that might result in chronic pain for you.

Similarly, an ergonomic keyboard will reduce the chances of injury to your wrist. An ergonomic keyboard is one where you will not have to stretch or flex your wrists to type. When you flex your wrist over prolonged periods of time, you will be increasing the chances of the occurrence of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

Engineering Psychology is the branch of ergonomics that makes any kind of equipment more user-friendly, minimizing chances of injury. This can refer to anything from making software more interesting to repositioning the handle on a power tool.

Macroergonomics, on the other hand, is a larger field that deals with organizational factors – improving the work place and relationships within the work place by changing the environment. The environment in this case refers to both people around you and the things you see.

Seating Ergonomics is a whole different field, because the way a person should sit will be different depending on the job he is supposed to do. Correcting seating arrangements is a major way to reduce RSIs.

Work places are beginning to be designed according to these principals, to ensure both short term and long term safety for employees. These measures can also drastically cut down the amount of money companies pay out in damages, while keeping their employees healthy and able to lead full lives.

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