I was recently asked by a client to evaluate an evaluation they had received. Yes, that’s correct, evaluate an evaluation. This person had received an office workstation evaluation by someone claiming to be competent in ergonomics. The problem was, even to the office worker, the final recommendations seemed a little odd and extremely expensive.
The office workstation had some typical problems. They keyboard and mouse were not at the same level, the keyboard and monitor were not in line, and there were some awkward reaching postures. Much of this could be fixed by measuring out the workspace, and rearranging things including file drawers and reference material. The worker stated that it was financially possible to rebuild some of the working areas, and we discussed economical and practical solutions that would incorporate this reconstruction.
The client then asked if I would take a look at the previous evaluation recommendations. Always optimistic that those claiming to be ergonomists actually have a high level of knowledge and competence, I eagerly reviewed the evaluation. I was sadly disappointed.
To begin with, it was nearly impossible to find the actual ‘evaluation’. I first had to wade through pages and pages of laminate counter top selection and matching chair fabrics. I finally found what looked to be a page including some measurements. “Are these the measurements of your workstation?” I asked. “No,” replied the worker. “Those are the dimensions of each desk section and the column on the right is the price of each section.”
Trying to quickly regain my composure after having seen the numbers in the right side column, I asked where the rest of the evaluation was. With a disappointed and somewhat confused look, the client replied, “That is the evaluation.” And with that, the full extent to which this client was deceived and misinformed becomes apparent.
The ‘evaluation’ this person had previously received was “free.” A complimentary service performed by a representative of a very large furniture maker. I do not know what qualifications the evaluator claimed to have, but from his obvious neglect of some very fundamental ergonomics concepts, I do not think they spanned even reading a textbook on the subject. This is exceptionally distasteful as he represented himself to the public as an ‘ergonomics expert’ and not a salesperson. Selling expensive, name brand, and possibly unnecessary products, it seems, was the sole purpose of the so-called evaluation.
So is there a moral to this tale? Yes, and more than just the questionable business morale of the furniture maker here! Qualified ergonomists need to make every effort to uphold the integrity of the profession. Many times that will include helping clients and the public understand the difference between what is an ergonomics evaluation and what is only a sales pitch. This does not mean that new or different products are not an appropriate solution in some cases.
In any evaluation, it is important that the consumer ask questions. If products are recommended ask exactly what problem each product addresses and if there are price ranges available. Ask if there is a trial period allowed for a product. And as with any professional service, don’t be afraid to ask about the credentials of the person performing the evaluation.