“Spring is in the air, and a young man’s thoughts turn to …”
… ergonomically designed garden tools, of course!
I’ve been spending a great deal of time lately working on the question of what it means for a product or process to be “ergonomically designed.” This is not a new question for me; I’ve presented sessions on this topic at several conferences, dating back to the 1990’s, and have debated the issue endlessly with colleagues since first becoming involved with ergonomics in the early 1980’s.
The debate, it seems, will never end, which is a good thing. However, that doesn’t mean we should keep our heads in the sand. The field of ergonomics is mature enough, and we have a duty to the public and our profession, to at least start to take actions to combat frivolous, innacurate, and outright fraudulent ergonomic claims made by some marketers.
Any one of us could give numerous examples of products for which we would adamantly dispute an “ergonomically designed” claim, but what if you were asked to “certify” or otherwise “approve” or “accredit” a specific product, or line of products, as ergonomically designed?
Not an easy question, but one I predict you’ll soon hear more about … stay tuned.
As an example, I came across this YouTube video promoting a line of gardening tools featuring “ergonomic design” in its title. Would you, could you — and if so, how would you — go about evaluating such products with respect to ergonomics?
Draft Canadian Ergonomics Standard CSA1004 Available for Review — Comments Due by May 16, 2010
According to the Canadian Standards Association (CSA.ca), the commenting period for CSA1004, General Workplace Ergonomics, is open until May 16, 2010. The CSA announcement says:
This standard specifies requirements and provides guidance for the systematic application of ergonomics principles to the development, design, use, management and improvement of work systems. This is achieved through the implementation of an ergonomics process as outlined in this Standard and is applicable to all types and sizes of organizations.
This Standard does not include aspects that could be considered part of a medical management program such as therapeutic or clinical interventions.
Usability guru Jacob Nielsen Takes on iPad Usability
I’ve pointed to articles and blogs critical of iPad ergonomics several times in the past, mostly looking at the physical issues associate with the new device. Now that it’s in consumer hands, cognitive ergonomics issues — software/interface usability — are beginning to surface. Jacob Nielson, a well known name in the usability world, has published a report based on his team’s initial research, summarizing their results with:
iPad apps are inconsistent and have low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles cause further usability problems.
Their findings are not all bad, and Nielson recognizes that the device and its usage patterns are still evolving, and he gives Apple some suggestions and guidance based on their findings.
“Ergonomics is Often the ‘Missing Link’ in Equipment Specifications”
Writing for Government-Fleet.com, Mike Antich writes:
Under OSHA regulations, an employer must provide a workplace (which includes work vehicles) free from recognized hazards. A variety of upfitting options are available to fleets to help reduce the risk of injury to employees, such as hydraulic self-unloading ladder racks, newer low-profile chassis, and even simple things such as step bumpers. Workers’ Comp claims resulting from use of add-on equipment is on the rise. Poor equipment spec’ing decisions can result in expensive litigation.
Ergonomics is also an accident avoidance issue. Poor ergonomics reduces driver comfort, increasing fatigue, a key contributor to preventable accidents. In the final analysis, resolving ergonomic issues can have a significant impact in reducing Workers’ Comp costs, improving user productivity, and reducing fatigue-induced operator errors.
The article has a section titled “Specifying Ergonomic-Friendly Equipment,” which covers the basics, but certainly not all of the features a purchaser might specify when selecting a fleet vehicle.
“Do you feel weird talking to your car? That may change”
That’s the headline of an article by Michael Goetz, writing for metronews.ca. In the article, Goetz interviews Paul Aldighieri, a member of a Ford Motor Company interdisciplinary design team. Aldighieri shares his belief that voice controls, along with touch screens, will rule the human-automobile interface.
As I walk up to the hotel where I am to meet up with Paul Aldighieri, I have no clue what to expect … Aldighieri is a professor in Human Factors, as well as an ergonomics engineer, and is currently a member of Ford’s Global Human Machine Interface (HMI) team.
“In 2006, Derek Kuzak (VP, Global Product Design) was looking at what was coming, this onslaught of information possibilities. He determined that we had to do something differently, to help people manage information in a car. He told us to come up with ‘a mouse.’ What the mouse did for the computing industry, that’s what he wanted for the car — that was the assignment.” …
“There will always be more technology wanting to get into the car… But human capability isn’t really changing too much; we’re stuck with our neurons … So the job of the human-machine interface is to create strategies to bring those technologies under the (human capability) line. And in a car it’s even more critical, as there is also this big task called ‘driving.’”
Patient Handling Legislation: The American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) Weighs in
The United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and the Subcommittee on Employment and Workforce Safety held a hearing to “Hearing to Discuss Safe Patient Handling and Lifting Standards for a Safer American Workforce” today, May 11, 2010. I know there were a number of groups that submitted comments, including these, submitted by AIHA:
AIHA is aware that two separate measures (U.S. Senate Bill 1788 and U.S. House Bill 2381) have been introduced to provide a method to assure that the safe patient handling issue is properly addressed. In reviewing these measures, AIHA is in full accord with the measures with the following two exceptions …
Read the full AIHA comment …
“Are Poor Workspace Ergonomics Causing Radiologists Pain?”
So asks The American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS). In a press release describing a conference presentation by Anand M. Prabhakar, MD, the Society writes:
“Over the past decade, radiologists’ workloads have increased dramatically,” said Anand M. Prabhakar, MD, lead author of the study. “As a result, more time is being spent in front of computer workstations. Although there has been a lot of attention paid to computer ergonomics in other industries, as well as for the general public, there has not been a lot of emphasis on exploring how ergonomic issues affect radiologists,” said Prabhakar.
“Our ongoing study, performed at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, MA, included a written questionnaire that was administered to 28 randomly selected radiologists from various divisions of a single radiology department. 96 percent of respondents had 2-3 computer monitors at their workstation and only 7.2 percent were symptom free. The prevalence of various symptoms was: lower back pain (39.2 percent), wrist pain (7.4 percent), shoulder pain (32.1 percent), neck pain (42.8 percent), and headache (32.1 percent),” said Prabhakar.