Due to good marketing techniques, it’s often difficult to know if the “ergonomic” products you are considering buying are truly ergonomic and appropriate for the situation or if it’s all smoke and mirrors. Because of this I’m often asked for recommendations on what products to buy and/or what to look for when buying ergonomic products. In general, the physical characteristics of the product should fit 90-95% of the worker population. There are books and online resources that have these measurements spelled out but realistically you may not have these on hand and/or don’t want to take the time to research this so the following are points to considering when evaluating which product or workstation is the best fit for the worker(s), the work itself and the environment:
- Workstation Layout
- Is everything that you use frequently within easy arm’s reach—without leaning forward? If not, you should consider where items are accessed and reorganize the work space.
- Check the hand-working height, i.e. where the work is being done. This includes looking beyond the work surface height and including the item being worked on and the tools being used. It is not uncommon that the work surface height is 1-4” above the work surface. For example, a computer keyboard typically raises the work surface 1”, while deburring a part may involve holding the part and performing the work 4-6” above the work surface.
- There are many things to consider when evaluating chairs. The key thing to keep in mind is the adjustability of the chair. You want one that is fully adjustable (height, lumbar height, lumbar support, seat back tilt, seat pan depth, seat pan tilt). This will allow you to fit a great majority of employees with a single type of chair. Fully adjustable chairs come in a wide price range so there is no need to buy the most expensive chair to get similar features.
- Tools should be designed with grips that allow the user to hold the tool with a power grip. You want to avoid tools with hard surfaces. Look for those lined with semi-compressible material. The tool diameter should be comfortable for the hand, i.e. not too small or too wide as that will reduce the grip strength and cause greater fatigue.
- Positioning Devices
- Positioning devices raise or lower the height of the item so that it’s at a comfortable height for the worker, i.e. below the shoulders and above the knees. These devices are very helpful to minimize risk for injury and improve work efficiency.
Keeping these points in mind will help you make the right investment!