From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Ergonomics Roundup: Ergonomics Makes a Comeback; Brian the Wellness Guy; ErgoLab; Active Desk; Smart Doctors Office; Electronic Lip Reading


According to Forrester Research, "Workplace Ergonomics Makes A Comeback". They’ve prepared a report with that title, and share this Executive Summary:

Attention to workplace ergonomics has fallen to the wayside for many businesses, brought down by a global recession and the repeal of ergonomic legislation in the US. But with expectations of a more activist OSHA under the Obama administration and a current debate on a proposed workplace safety rule, some enterprises have begun reevaluating how they support workplace ergonomics. More than ever, iWorkers today are tethered to workstations and mobile devices. Though many have gained flexibility in where they work and what tools they use, they continue to risk repetitive stress and eye strain injuries. Along with preparing for regulatory changes, organizations that address ergonomics in the Information Workplace stand to improve worker health while minimizing risk of potential insurance claims, compensation, medical and administrative costs, and indirect costs of lost productivity.

I haven’t read the report, and don’t intend to, since this isn’t news to me, but it’s good to see others recognizing the trends that we’re seeing.

The Forrester report highlights the "iWorker", but there’s also a growing concern among manufacturers that OSHA will be targeting ergonomics related issues for greater enforcement. For example, IndustryWeek recently published "Under Obama, Labor Agencies Beefing up Budgets, Enforcement", an article that summarizes the growing expectation that OSHA will change it’s activities under the current democratic party control. Here are example excerpts:

OSHA chief David Michaels declared: "Under this administration, OSHA is returning to the original intent of the OSH Act. We’re a regulatory and enforcement agency and we’re going to act like it."

"We’re moving from reaction to prevention, beefing up enforcement and moving the regulatory agenda forward," Michaels added.

the agency "is moving ahead with an aggressive regulatory agenda," as Michaels put it, including a controversial proposal to restore the column for musculoskeletal disorders on the OSHA 300 Log.

OSHA’s Michaels, however, in his Jan. 22 speech, insisted that the proposed rule "is not a prelude to a broader ergonomic standard."

Read the full article …

Articles like the one above give you a good view of how organized business and organized labor view ergonomics. But, how do "average people" view ergonomics? I came across this article, "The 4 People Lawyers Won’t Meet in Solo Practice", which was one lawyer’s humorous view of the types of people you would only meet in a larger corporate environment. One of his targets is "Brian", who mixed ergonomics with wellness, using techniques the author deemed "embarrassing gimmickry". I hope his perception of ergonomics isn’t too tarnished by the wellness bath water.

Brian is the result of the worst kind of corporate logic applied to the high cost of medical care. Someone thought hiring a doughy man in an ill-fitting polo shirt to roam the office once a week badgering people about "good health practices" would save money. He admonishes staffers for their posture while they type and says it’s not ergonomically correct. He engages in embarrassing gimmickry, pulling a red wagon full of "healthy snacks" around the office (mealy red apples and unsalted pretzels dry as pressed sawdust). He forces chit-chat about diet and exercise and leaves pamphlets on lawyers’ desks about heart disease (Hint! Hint!). He ignores social cues. He does all this while people are trying to get work done on a deadline. Read the full article …

THE Asia-Pacific region’s most advanced one-stop facility for research in occupational biomechanics and product ergonomics has opened in South Australia, according to this announcement.

Launched by the University of South Australia’s Mawson Institute, the ergonomics research laboratory will be a world-class resource for developing products.

The facility, known as ErgoLab, will spearhead ergonomics studies in a diverse range of applications such as automotive and aeronautic passenger space design to assist elderly people and those with disabilities.

ErgoLab director and senior research fellow Gunther Paul said the lab would focus on the automotive, defence and biomedical sectors.

Congratulations to Keith Osborne, winner of Honeywell’s HTSI Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) Presidents Award. I know Keith has accomplished a lot of good ergonomics at his facility, and it’s great to see him recognized for his efforts and successes. Here’s an excerpt from the award announcement, from Honeywell’s Scott Ray, Director, HSE & Facilities:

Each year, HTSI presents the HTSI Health, Safety & Environment (HSE) Presidents Award to one individual who best demonstrates a commitment towards improving the safety behaviors/culture of a program, driving injury reduction and encouraging employee engagement. I am pleased to announce that for 2009, the winner of the HTSI HSE Presidents Award is Keith Osborne, Facilities Tech on the Satellite Control Network Contract (SCNC) in Colorado Springs, CO.  Through his commitment to the health and safety of his fellow workers and their extended families Keith exhibited behaviors expected of Honeywell Leaders.

Have you or anyone you know been recognized for ergonomics efforts? Let us know by emailing


I previously wrote about Discoveries & Breakthroughs Inside Science, and Lynn Strother at HFES pointed me to this recent topic: "Workout While You Work". The concept of walking on a treadmill while you work is not new, but it’s good to see someone conducting research on the topic:

Exercise science and health promotions researchers designed a work station connected to a treadmill that allows a person to walk while working on the computer at his desk. The Active Desk attempts to counter the recent study findings that reveal that the longer a person sits, the more likely he is to die prematurely. Health specialists have noted that sitting for long periods of time interferes with how the body metabolizes fuels such as glucose and lipids.

Read the full story, including a video …

And here’s another good one from Discoveries & Breakthroughs Inside Science. The story "Smart Doctors Office: Back To The Future" overlaps with ergonomics in that it looks at efficiency of operations in the healthcare environment. In this case, the authors conclude that bigger is not always better, something US politicians should heed as they bumble their way toward healthcare reform.

This year, the typical American family of four with health insurance will spend almost $3,000 out-of-pocket on healthcare, and costs keep going up. Though you’re spending more money on medical expenses, you’re probably spending less time with the doctor. As practices get bigger, doctors have less time for each patient. Now, new research on doctor’s offices and their efficiency finds that bigger may not mean better.

Read the full story, including a video …

I’m always on the lookout for technologies that could become new computer input methods, and came across this: "Lip reading mobile promises end to noisy phone calls". Using electromyography (EMG) to measure facial muscle activities, this system is definitely not ready for prime time, but is interesting nonetheless.

The prototype device could allow people to conduct silent phone conversations.

The technology measures the tiny electrical signals produced by muscles used when someone speaks.

The device can record these pulses even when a person does not audibly utter any words and use them to generate synthesised speech in another handset.

"I was taking the train and the person sitting next to me was constantly chatting and I thought ‘I need to change this’," Professor Tanja Shultz of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology told BBC News.

Read the full article …


Do you know of any interesting happenings in the world of ergonomics that might fit well in an "Ergonomics Roundup" article, or even stand as their own article? Email them to