From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

Raise the Ergonomic Standard

Standards. For whatever reason, a standard can be a point of difficulty, a point of heated discussion, a point of debate.  Yet we all have standards that we live by, whether we want to acknowledge them as such.  Brushing our teeth, wearing a seat belt, how our clothes look, whether we’re on time for appointments or not – we all have personal standards.  Laws are standards – with a consequence for disobedience.

What is a standard, anyway?  According to, a standard has multiple definitions – among which states a standard can be a flag bearing heraldic device distinctive of a person or a corporation – an identifier.  We’re not interested in raising any flags at this point, but want to emphasize one of the other definitions:  an acknowledged measure of comparison for quantitative or qualitative value; a criterion. 

The field of ergonomics has suffered from not having that criterion in place in a general sense.  Yes, there are some specifics that do exist for specific situations (BIFMA’s seating recommendations adopted by ANSI as a standard, for example), but even those situations do not have consequences for those who label products as ergonomic that don’t even come close to qualifying as such.  As Ian Chong stated in his article I Really Hate Being Lied To, those situations are pitiful, and even laughable to think that the product dare be branded with the notion of being ergonomic in nature with actual ergonomic value.

What then do we need to do?  There’s another aspect of standards that needs to come to play, and it has to do with me revising something I said earlier in this article – a standard is also a flag or emblem of an army, raised on a pole to indicate the rallying point of a battle. 

Those of us practicing ergonomics in the field need to raise the standard, and raise it high for all to see.  We need educational programs to help people understand basic principles of ergonomics that can be integrated into everyday life to help prevent the insidious progress of repetitive motion disorders, to help our kids (and adults as well) benefit from the educational process and not be disabled by consequence of poor postures and poor practices.  We need to promote the value of ergonomic principles, and promote the value of the ergonomist in business processes.  Without ergonomics, organizations really don’t have a hands-on means of managing the human capital that is critical to their existence and operations.

We need to rally around the cause of ergonomics to raise the level of expectation of products, of our field, and of those practicing in the field. It’s time.

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2011-02-23.