Ergonomics is a whole picture experience. It is not … just new equipment …

June 30, 2021

Ergonomic Keying

Being an ergonomic professional, I meet and experience a wide range of people day to day. I work with a variety of people who have different workplace needs and time schedules. 

Ergonomics is the science of fitting the work environment to the employee, (to prevent and resolve injuries). This way employees do not sustain injuries due to an ill-fitting workplace setup. Works stations are usually generic until we create them to fit. Similarly, to how you would want clothes or shoes to fit your body well in order to avoid short term and long term injuries, an ergonomic evaluation will provide you a well-fitting work station. 

I am mainly talking about office workers in this article, but I have performed ergonomic assessments in all sorts of environments, from people building airplanes to a cook working in a kitchen.  Surprisingly often, ergonomic evaluations start with the person telling me right off the bat:  “I just….. need a new…. keyboard/mouse/desk”. This could be before I even tell them what I can offer or what I am planning to do to help them get set up!

These same people will tell me at the very end of the evaluation: “I have learned so much from you. Things I did not know I needed to learn!”

How and why does this happen? The above scenario has occurred to me many, many times.

First, let me explain a little of what I do and what neutral posture is, because it is an important concept and help you to better understand what it is I do.

Neutral posture is a body position that uses the least amount of stress and strains to your muscles, joints, and ligaments. Neutral positions are natural, normal positions that are easy on the body and your musculoskeletal system. These positions are easy for the body to maintain and are painless to reposition from. When your hands and wrists are in an awkward position or non-neutral position, grip strength is actually lost and you have less power to complete the task, plus your muscles work harder and fatigue easier. Performing tasks using awkward posture on a consistent basis can lead to fatigue, discomforts or even disabilities.

We can all learn to use our body in a more neutral position to keep ourselves healthy as well as to reduce or eliminate our discomforts. Using awkward positions “non-neutral” positions can fatigue our arms, hands, limbs, and joints. Maintaining a neutral posture is important because, if you respect the way your body is designed to move while performing your work, then you can minimize aches and pains.

During the ergonomic evaluation I listen to their pain and their solution scenarios. Then, I tell them what I am there to do.

I start with:

1. I will be reviewing your entire set up to find out what is causing the issue (if indeed they have an issue- preventative evaluations are always best) and this is important because helps me to determine where you are not working in a neutral position. I focus on your entire posture to help me determine why you may be hurting.

2. I will teach you about neutral posture

3. I will evaluate your work area to make sure you can work in neutral

4. Your company will often provide whatever product you may need for you to work in neutral

5. I will look at your whole setup and from that perspective, help you solve your physical issues.

At the end of the ergonomic evaluation, maybe they do need a new keyboard and maybe that will solve their problem. Or maybe their current keyboard is fine and really the height of the keyboard, either too high or too low, was the issue.

If they do need a new keyboard, then I will teach them how to use it within a neutral range so they do not continue to work in an awkward position.

It is not until I watch them work, see what postures they are currently using, and teach them how to work in neutral, that am I able to help them solve their physical issues.

Many, many times at the end of the evaluation people say to me: I have learned so much from this appointment. Thank you so much for all the valuable information you shared with me. I had no idea ergonomics was all this.

Yes, ergonomics is a whole picture experience. If you change one thing, something else will change, because our bodies are connected. With ergonomics, we need to look at the whole picture before we can offer you solutions.

For more information or to schedule an ergonomic evaluation please email me.


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