Ergonomics used to be a synonym for “Human Factors. ” Nowadays, the term typically refers to the design of workplaces in order to maximize both safety and productivity. The United States laws on safe work environments have managed to stimulate immense interest in ergonomics. Ergonomic seating, furniture, lighting, and workstations are all considered equally important (“Ergonomics”; “Create an Ergonomic Office”). The main reason why office designers consider ergonomics an essential aspect of their work today is not just the law of the land that makes workplace safety an issue of great importance.
Rather, the reason is twofold: (1) There is a constant, ongoing decline in the number of workers at manufacturing plants, thereby making offices necessary for the workers who have shifted to office work; and (2) The workforce of the United States is aging, a fact that entails increasing needs for safety and health in office design (Stuthridge). According to Usernomics, a company that designs offices on the basis of ergonomics; biometrics in addition to anthropometrics are significant in successful, ergonomic office design in modern times.
The company explains the importance of ergonomics in office design thus: “The easier it is to do a job, the more likely it is to see gains in productivity due to greater efficiency. Analogously, the safer it is to do a job, the more likely it is to see gains in productivity due to reduced time off for injury. Ergonomics can address both of these issues concurrently by maximizing the workspace and equipment needed to do a job. ” Robert Stuthridge, who works with the Integrated Ergonomics LLC as the senior health ergonomist, agrees on the importance of ergonomics in office design by adding that the labor force that has migrated from industry to office work has brought with itself “pre-existing injuries” besides “premature wear and tear,” making it even more important for office designers to use the principles of ergonomics. Additionally, the expert on ergonomics states that the most prevalent as well as costly disorders related to the workplace are “musculoskeletal disorders…of the back, neck and upper limbs,” and age is a huge risk factor in these disorders.
Given that the American officer is aging, ergonomics is the need of the hour, for it address back problems by designing seating that would reduce the risk factors of musculoskeletal disorders for officers of all ages. Stuthridge also writes that apart from musculoskeletal disorders, “osteoporosis, upper limb problems…and osteoarthritis can have an adverse impact on functionality. For this reason, people with these types of disorders—particularly if severe or chronic—might be classified as disabled. Seeing as the United States deals with the problem of disability in the workplace with the ADA, a law that makes it obligatory for employers to make appropriate changes in the workplace so as to accommodate the disabled workers’ needs, ergononomics gains importance yet again. After all, the disabled officers might turn out to be some of the most productive in an organization, provided that their ergonomic needs in office design have been met successfully.
Moreover, the country’s economy is dependent on disabled workers just as much as it is reliant on the productivity of the non-disabled workers, thereby making ergonomics in office design an issue of national importance. Ergonomists in our day refer to the “Inclusive Design Plan” for the office. This plan embraces all possible ergonomic needs of officers. Using this plan, the ergonomist does not only choose furniture that is ergonomics-friendly, but also selects equipment that would reduce harm.
According to Stuthridge, the goal of the Inclusive Design Plan is the reduction of “redundancy, redesign, and replacement. ” In order to achieve this cost-minimizing goal of the organization, the ergonomist office designer would not only replace the regular furniture with ergonomics-friendly work chairs, work tables, and footrests, but also replace the existing document holders and telephone headsets. Stuthridge writes that the new ergonomic document holder must “securely support reference documents, including heavy files and books, when used.
The document holder should be located immediately behind the keyboard, centered to both keyboard and monitor. Only here is it safely viewed and reached. ” The expert further addresses the need for cordless headsets to replace the “appalling practice of cradling the handset between shoulder and ear,” which increases the risks of upper limb, shoulder, back, and neck disorders. Cordless headsets, on the other hand, also allow easy access to the computer or paper to the person who is speaking on the phone and would like to take notes. There is no question that safety is everybody’s Number One concern.
Besides, health is the central theme of human life. Without safety and health, the workers cannot be productive. And so, ergonomists in the United States are especially enthused by the field of ergonomics not only because of the laws of the land that make it mandatory for employers to reasonably accommodate disabled employees and also make safety and health issues of priority in the workplace, but also because a large number of workers in the country are shifting constantly from manufacturing to office work, carrying with them the health problems of their earlier working years. Furthermore, the workforce of the United States is aging, thereby calling for greater attention to health and safety in the office. Ergonomics should, therefore, be considered indispensable in the American office today.