Episode 47: Desk Ergonomics Revisited
What is Ergonomics?
The word ‘ergonomics’ comes from the Greek words ‘ergon’ which means work, and ‘nomos’ which means natural laws. Ergonomics can thus be defined simply as the natural laws of work. More specifically, ergonomics is the scientific study of designing the job and workplace to fit the worker, keeping in mind their capabilities and limitations. Ergonomics combines the knowledge from other scientific disciplines like anatomy and physiology, biomechanics, engineering, psychology, and statistics to ensure that workplace designs complement the strengths of people and minimize the effects of their limitations.
Ergonomics is also known as human factors, and the terms are often used interchangeably. Ergonomists and human factors specialists seek to understand how a workplace, product, tool, or system can be best designed to fit the people who need to use it. The goal is to apply this knowledge to improve the system, human performance, and productivity, while also focusing on the health, safety, and well-being of the individuals involved.
Why is Ergonomics Important?
Think about how many hours each day you spend sitting. If you work in an office setting, you are likely sitting more than most people. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) statistics, on average, 95% of an office worker’s day is spent sitting in front of the computer.
Sitting in front of a computer all day for work is a relatively new concept that has become more common over the past two decades. Consequently, the adverse health effects associated with prolonged sitting have become more prevalent and are exacerbated when working at a computer. This is often due to poorly designed computer workstations and the physical stress that it places on joints, muscles, tendons, and nerves of the body.
However, most of us don’t realize the harmful effects of prolonged computer use until many years later. This is because the harmful effects of using poorly designed computer workstations are NOT immediate, and the discomfort we initially feel is very mild, thus we tend to ignore them. We later assume our neck aches, back pain, headaches, and poor posture are due to getting older and “our own fault” for not exercising enough and being lazy. We fail to realize that our workstation is harming us and putting physical stress on our bodies which can eventually lead to musculoskeletal disorders.