Anyone who has ever said there is no such thing as ergonomics should take heed this holiday season from the plethora of marketers and manufacturers who now claim there is. Products ranging from blue jeans to tools, car accessories and even food now wear what seems to be a coveted “ergonomics” label.
Kitchen ergo abounds with cord-free appliances and kitchen helpers with ergonomic handles to ease the strain of making coffee, opening wine, peeling vegetables, and (literally) cutting the cheese. Pet products, car products, toys, umbrellas, squeegees for the obsessively clean, tools, and electronics. But which ones really make the grade, legitimately earning their ergonomic title? That’s where it gets fuzzy.
There is currently no standard for a product to meet to be labeled “ergonomic.” This means that while some products may have had applicable science in the design and gone through rigorous user testing, others may have simply found the label slapped on after production. In the absence of any such standards, ergonomics is still a buyer-beware/hit-or-miss market, as the following list of ergonomic-labeled items being offered this holiday season demonstrates:
Expedition Poles: The Expedition Experts poles have 15-degree ergonomically bent handles. According to Outdoor Magazine, “We’ve found the ergonomic slanted handle arrangement to be more comfortable on wrists.”
Insulated Cooler: Complete with lightweight, padded backpack-like yoke straps. Can hold up to 40 cans. By Tundra.
Winnie the Pooh 4-in-1 Doll Stroller: Start the little ones early. This stroller features an ergonomic handle that moves for easy feeding of dolls. By Disney.
Golf Ball Monogrammer: Soft sculpted-handle monogrammer saves the grip for the golf game while helping the confused golfer locate his balls.
Cargo Bridge: Strap-on carrying system for boards, skis and outdoor gear with a padded quick lock strap to enable stable vertical carrying of long items. Use to haul around skis, poles, snowboard, skateboard, fishing rod, shovel or axe strapped onto a hard-pack backpack. By Boblbee.
Jeans: Ergonomic Jeans abound. Almost everyone makes jeans like the ones Newport News claims are “engineered to make your body appear slimmer with curved, leg-lengthening front seams.” Another option is Ergonomic Work Jeans with pockets for inserting soft knee pads. By Working Concepts Inc.
Triax 15 Ballistic Watch: Ergonomic design curves around the wrist bone for comfort and fit. By Nike.
Weekender sock: Features “strategically placed padding for protection and ankle and arch support for ergonomic comfort.” By Bridgedale.
Toaster: According to the ad, the TC100 dual-position toaster was “designed for compact ergonomic use to fit almost anywhere.” By DeLonghi.
Jar opener: Pickle jars a pain no longer. Features soft grip handles and teeth that grip any size jar for simple opening. By OXO. (See October 2002 Ergonomics Report for more information on tough-to-open jars)
Fruit and Vegetable Peelers, Knives: Numerous brands featuring ergonomic handles which means anything from curved to cushioned. According to one peeler, “The feature of the new ceramic peeler is the ergonomic handle, designed to greatly enhance the peeling action.”
Ergonomic poultry shears: Birds are reported to cut more easily with shears that are designed to work with the thumb and not force the thumb into an awkward position. Thumb handle is merely a lever and the shears are spring-loaded and lightweight. By Sabatier.
For the car
Insulated ergonomic briefcase bottle: For people who clutch their coffee too tightly comes an ergonomically designed drink holder that totes up to 16 ounces of hot or cold liquids. It’s shapely design and non-slip grip keeps the drinker from dropping his or her pint of precious contents. By Nissan.
E-brake handle cover: Brake happy doesn’t have to hurt. Designed to contour the hand and palm, all while looking cool in a variety of coordinating colors. By OBX.
IceDozer Ergonomic Ice Scraper. Cradles the windshield curve and, according to an Amazon.com review, “the ergonomic handle design ensures that the body’s natural scraping motion will create all the force necessary to de-ice even the frozen tundra on Wisconsin windshields.” By Innovation Factory.
Around the house:
Ceiling fan: Hunter has a ceiling fan that boasts a remote control to keep the user in a presumably ergonomic seat while changing the fan’s speed.
Xi Double Blade Cigar Cutter: Spring loaded and easy to hold. By Xixar.
Pens: From Cross, Sanford, and Sensa, pens feature cushions, multi-angle writing and custom holding pressure.
While there is currently no standard for a product to meet to be labeled “ergonomic,” if it’s printed on the tag, surely it must be so. This means that while some products may have had applicable science in the design and gone through rigorous user testing, others may have simply found the label slapped on after production. In the absence of any such standards, ergonomics is a “buyer be ware” market.
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2002-12-01.