From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Ergonomics Roundup: January 13, 2010

I’m constantly monitoring various media sources for mentions of "ergonomics", so I thought it might be useful to summarize some of the topics I found interesting and share them as I go. This is my first attempt, and I’ll keep doing it if you find it valuable (email us at or add a comment at the end of this article – thanks).


Sri Lanka aims to lighten children’s load
We’ve covered the topic of children carrying heavy backpacks to and from school in the past, and this article caught my eye as an example of how the problem is being dealt with. Here are a few excerpts from the article to whet your appetite …

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka // For nearly two decades, Sri Lankan children have trudged to school grumbling about the weight of their backpacks, which get heavier year after year as syllabi expand to include new subjects. Many children have complained of back pain and tiredness while parents of younger students are often seen carrying the bags before and after school.??

Now in line with international trends, Sri Lankan authorities plan to introduce a lighter and more child-friendly bag from 2011 onwards.

Manufacturers of school bags will be provided specifications for the new bag that is expected to be available in 12 months. Currently there is no bag that is specified as a school bag by the authorities.

In another step towards creating awareness among children about carrying a “healthy school bag”, some science textbooks will include a chapter on how to load, pack and carry a school bag, according to Dr Jayaratne, who conducted research on backpacks in 2006-07.??

In an effort to reduce the weight, he said the ministry is asking manufacturers of notebooks and textbooks to limit the number of pages.

Read the full article …

Source: The National (


Texting trauma
Here are a few excerpts. I recognize Jane Sleeth as a contributor to our Ergoweb Forums:

"OMG my thums r killN me! MayB Im txtN 2 mch?” Darn right, you are! Painful thumbs, a result of over-texting, playing video games and working the Wii, are turning up in physiotherapists’ offices and are also beginning to show up on disability claims, say experts.

No wonder physiotherapists are seeing more thumb injuries. “And we are seeing them show up through short term disability claims as well as through the compensation system,” says Jane Sleeth, a Toronto physiotherapist who is a spokesperson for the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.

Read the full article …



Marketplace, “Canada’s Investigative Consumer Show,” will feature a segment on “GPS Distraction” (driver distraction while using global positioning navigation technology). The past president of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES), Paul Green, was consulted by the show producers. The show will appear this Friday, July 15, 2010. You can see a promo for GPS Distraction.

Cleaning up Hospitals: Epidemiologists Clean Things Up with Hand-Washing Detector for Healthcare Facilities
We’ve covered this topic many times in the past, and consider the unnecessary spread of disease in hospitals an error that should not happen. Here’s an excerpt discussing a design solution — an example of ergonomics, in my opinion — to this problem. The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society was consulted on the development of this article:

Epidemiologists are using a small, wireless sensor to detect whether hospital workers have properly washed their hands. Worn like a name badge, the sensor detects the presence of ethyl alcohol – the main ingredient found in hand sanitizing solutions used in healthcare facilities. A wall-mounted sensor by a patient’s doorway sends a signal to the wearable sensor, indicating that it should perform the check. The worker places his or her hands in front of the sensor-a red light indicates more washing is needed; a green light means alcohol fumes from the sanitizer are detected.

Read the full article …

Source: Discoveries and Breakthroughs Inside Science


I regret that I haven’t yet read this article, but the title and abstract caught my eye. Ergonomics can significantly improve manufacturing quality, and it’s good to see research that focuses in with a quantitative approach:

The impact of poor assembly ergonomics on product quality: A cost–benefit analysis in car manufacturing

Abstract: The study aimed at analyzing the relationship between assembly ergonomics, assemblability (“ease of assembly”), and product quality and at quantifying these relationships in economic terms. This was in order to better to support the development of more ergonomic product and assembly solutions, particularly at early stages of the car development process. The assembly of 24,443 cars was studied for 8 weeks in an assembly plant and for another 16 weeks as factory-complete vehicles. The results show increased risks for quality errors of 3.0 and 3.7 times and total action costs that were 8.7 times and 8.2 times higher for high and medium physical load assemblies compared to low physical load assemblies for 55 tasks assessed.

Learn more or order this article …

Source: Human Factors in Ergonomics & Manufacturing, Volume 20 , Issue 1 (January 2010); Authors: Ann-Christine Falck, Department of Product and Production Development, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden; Roland Örtengren, Department of Product and Production Development, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, Sweden: Dan Högberg School of Technology and Society, University of Skövde, Skövde, Sweden; Publisher: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.  Chichester, UK



Study Shows Big Payoff for Driver Prehiring Screens

A 2-year study by Atlas Ergonomics, a provider of ergonomic service and technology, suggests that systematic physical screenings of truck drivers following a conditional job offer led to a 7 percent reduction in lost workdays. A long haul carrier that implemented these also saved $28 million in 2 years, or a return of $25 for every dollar invested.

Read the full article …



Joanna Brawa at pointed to a review of a netbook study by gizmodo. The study looked at “the most comfortable position to use a netbook” among “tweens” (children aged 11-14 years). The researchers found that among the sample group, the most comfortable position for using a clamshell-style laptop wasn’t while sitting at a desk, propping the notebook on your lap, or even while standing. Rather, the position that caused the least pain was lying in bed with the computer propped up on one’s thighs with knees kept up.

Original Study Source: Core 77



How to Be Happier At Work: Adjust Your Workspace?

Ergonomics is a word we’ve all heard but few of us really take seriously unless (or until) we have some kind of injury, like back pain or carpal tunnel. But ergonomics can do a lot more than just prevent injury, it can improve your comfort, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.

This short post links to an office ergonomics checklist at the USA based Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Read the full article …



And you can always find a variety of ongoing discussion in Ergoweb’s ongoing collaboration area, the Ergoweb Forums.