From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

A Tool By Any Other Name. . .

Did you grab your glasses before glancing at this issue of The Ergonomics Report?  Adjust your desk lamp?  Look at the phone to make sure your message light wasn’t blinking? If you did, you used a tool.


Tools are everywhere, but say the word “tool” and most people think of the construction and repair types.  But your keyboard and your mouse are tools and they’re not just used to fix things.  So is the letter opener, the stapler, a dictionary or an informative website.  If it helps you, or someone else, tackle a job more effectively, efficiently or with greater safety and accuracy, then chances are it’s probably a tool.


Tools work for the worker and even more so, they work for the workplace, helping with the completion of tasks, making the work more precise and reducing the risk of injury.  For example, a weekend barbeque chef wouldn’t take a sizzling steak from the hot coals with bare hands.  Instead he’d use a fork or another “tool” to do the job, thus reducing the risk of burns.  A seamstress could merely rip the fabric to the precise size but knows that scissors (a tool) will make a more precise cut.  And while any scout knows how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, that scout also knows that a match (a tool) will make the campsite warm much more quickly.


Tools do the same for the workforce.  An extra-large, high-resolution monitor may cost a little more but for the engineer whose work hinges upon the accuracy of a design, the larger screen improves visibility and helps ensure measurements are precise.  A graphic designer whose trackball input device keeps getting gunked up with lint sees great strides in productivity with an optical mouse that doesn’t need to be cleaned five times a day.


Finding the right tool to fit the job and the worker provides a fit for the business as well: workers who have equipment that helps them get the task done more easily with less of a risk of injury become more productive; expenses associated with injuries are diminished.  Worker well-being is improved when a job becomes less frustrating and a satisfied workforce is more apt to translate into a profitable one as well.


But how does an employer find the right tool to help the worker complete the task?  Well for starts, the employer turns to a tool as well, like this issue of The Ergonomics Report where we take an in-depth look at how digging into a task armed with the right “tools” can take a traditionally decent crop and turn it into a bumper profit.

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2003-10-01.