Ergonomics

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ERGONOMICS AS A CONCEPT
The term ergonomics was coined from the Greek words ergon (meaning "work") and nomos (meaning "rules).So the literal meaning is "the rules of work," Ergonomics is the science of fitting the work-place conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population. The goal of ergonomics is to make the work place more comfortable and to improve both health and productivity. To meet these goals, the capabilities and limitations of workers and their tools, equipment and furniture are considered in conjunction with how they relate to particular tasks. Most people have heard of ergonomics and think it is something to do with seating or with the design of car controls and instruments. It is...but it is much more! Ergonomics is the application of scientific information concerning humans to the design of objects, systems and environment for human use. Ergonomics comes into everything which involves people. Work systems, sports and leisure, health and safety should all embody ergonomics principles if well designed.
DEFINITION

According to International Labour Organization, ergonomics is the application of the human biological sciences in conjunction with engineering sciences to the worker and his working environment, so as to obtain maximum satisfaction for the worker and at the same time enhance productivity.

HISTORY

Later in the 19th century, Frank and Lillian Gilbert expanded Taylor's methods of ?SCIENTIFIC MANAGEMENT? in the early 1900s to develop "Time and Motion Studies". They aimed to improve efficiency by eliminating unnecessary steps and actions. By applying this approach, the Gilbert?s reduced? the number of motions in bricklaying from 18 to 4.5, allowing bricklayers to increase their? productivity from 120 to 350 bricks per hour.
In the decades since the war, ergonomics has continued to flourish and diversify. The Space Age created new human factors issues such as weightlessness and extreme G-forces. How far could environments in space be tolerated, and what effects would they have on the mind and body? The dawn of the Information Age has resulted in the new ergonomics field of human-computer interaction (HCI). Likewise, the growing demand for and competition among consumer goods and electronics has resulted in more companies including human factors in product design.
ORIGIN OF ERGONOMICS
Ergonomics is a relatively new branch of science which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1999, but relies on research carried out in many other older, established scientific areas, such as engineering, physiology and psychology.

It originated in World War 2, when scientists designed advanced new and potentially improved systems without fully considering the people who would be using them. It gradually became clear that systems and products would have to be designed to take account of many human and environmental factors if they are to be used safely and effectively. This awareness of people?s requirements resulted in the discipline of ergonomics.
USING ERGONOMICS
How do we use ergonomics? Ergonomics incorporates elements from many subjects including anatomy, physiology, psychology and design. Agronomists apply their diverse knowledge to ensure that products and environments are comfortable, safe and efficient for people to use.
Ergonomics can be used in every possible sphere of our lives. But we have tried to focus on some of the important aspects, where ergonomics should not be ignored.

For that purpose we have divided the usability of ergonomics into the following sections:

  • Ergonomics and the Computer User

Why is it Important?
The personal computer is rapidly becoming a common household item and is now a necessary tool for all small businesses. There is a growing segment of the population that uses the computer exclusively for its vocation and it is in this group that we have begun to see the physical effects of spending long hours day after day at the computer. With improvements in technology the computer users are positioned to perform more and more functions without leaving their workstation.
Here are some of the ergonomic ways to ensure that the using of the computer doesn?t prove fatal to your health.

Machine Set-up

? Visibility:-???????You must be able to see what you are doing easily to avoid eye strain and neck pain. Have adequate amounts of light. Florescent lights are not very good, natural (sun) light is best. Reduce glare as much as possible, not only on your screen but also on the rest of your work areas including the keyboard. Hoods, drapes, glare screens and changing the lights can do wonders. Rearrange things until you can see well and it feels comfortable for you.
? Chairs:- ??????????As with visibility factors, experiment with chair height and/or tilt. Try different chairs. Keep trying until you get it the way your body likes.
?? Keyboards:-? ???Be sure to get the height right to prevent too much bend at the wrist and allow the forearm to have some support. The arms should hang loose to prevent the shoulder muscles from cramping. Many keyboards can tilt; unfortunately, most of them tilt the wrong way.
? Mouse:-???The continual clicking and small, precise motions involved in mouse use are a repetitive action that can be a health hazard. A few basic rules can help make handling this convenient input devise safer and more comfortable:
1.) Hold the mouse loosely. "White knuckling" the mouse creates too much tension. Use a light touch when you click.
2.) Use you whole arm and shoulder to move the mouse, not just your wrist. Don't rest your forearm on the desk while you move the mouse.
4.) Keep your wrist relaxed and neutral, not bent. The click button should be about the same height as your keyboard.

?? Desks: ????Make enough space so that you have room to work, especially if your pushing your mouse around. Use a paper holder to keep letters or books semi-vertical and at eye level. Your work space should be set up so that you need not twist your neck.

HUMAN SET-UP

?? Posture:-?? ????No one posture is perfect. You do not have to be "military" but getting comfortable is essential. The most important rule is to avoid prolonged positions. Shake your hands and shoulders now and then. Keep lose.
?? Eyes:- ???After good lighting and avoiding glare, the most important eye consideration is to look away from the screen occasionally. It really helps. Also, don't forget to blink. Blinking moistens the eyes to prevent burning from dryness.
?? Warm up:- ???Just as an athlete prepares for the game by stretching and loosening the joints and muscles to prevent injury and enhance performance, you too should prepare for a marathon session surfing the Net. Prevention is better than repair.

  • Ergonomics and driving

Why is it important?
As our reliance on the automobile increases due to long distance job commutes driving has become a significant part of our daily routine. By spending more and more time in cars our driving can now be considered a major source of physical and psychological stress in day-to-day living.
Stressors of Driving 
The challenge of the manufacturer is to strike a balance between safety and comfort. With the prime ergonomic elements being posture, force and repetition it is posture that is most important to the driver. Any deficiencies in postural design of the car seat contribute to tension and fatigue on the part of the driver and subsequently detract from performance. There are portable support systems/commuter supports designed to be added to the existing car seating. These compensate for ineffective car seat design.
Neck and Shoulder Pain 
With long distance driving aches and pains in the legs, low back, mid, upper back and neck are experienced. With our hands on the steering wheel and the forward posture of the shoulders there is added stress on the shoulders and upper back.
To prevent rounding of the shoulders the driver must have easy access to the steering wheel without having to fully extend the arms and at the same time comfortably reach the foot pedals without having to stretch the legs. Compact vehicles are notorious for poorly accommodating tall individuals. If the ceiling is too low for an erect seated position the driver is forced to crunch down in the seat with a forward head posture. Short drivers must be able to slide the seat forward to the extent that they do not have to lean forward and place the head in a forward position.
Low Back Pain
Several studies have shown a relationship between driving and low back pain. Risks of both low back and neck pain tend to increase as daily driving time increases
For people with a history of low back problems it is recommended that they choose a vehicle with a higher curb height so they are not traumatized when getting in and out of the car. The driver should enter the car first by sitting down and then swinging the legs under the wheel. Features that are included in most modern vehicles include automatic transmissions and power steering. These features lessen any twisting of the spine and strain to the low back.

  • Ergonomics at home

Why is it important? 
The opportunity we have in our home that we do not always have in our work area is the ability to create a user-friendly environment. As each room in the house serves a specific function we need to come up with ideas on how we can set up the room to best suit our needs so there is more efficiency and less stress in the activities of the house.
The Living Room 
The next room we enter is the living room. This is the room in which we usually do most of our relaxing in the form of reading, socializing or watching TV. These activities require ergonomically designed couches, recliners and chairs. Watching television is best done from an easy chair or recliner. Directional light should be used while reading that will only illuminate a specific target area.  
The Kitchen
The kitchen is where we store, cook and prepare food. It is most practical to use a refrigerator that has a freezer on the bottom with the most commonly used foods on the top or shelf that has the easiest access. Most people have refrigerators that are set up in such a way that they are forced to bend over at the waist to access the much frequently used foods. The most commonly used utensils should be within easy reach. Special kitchen tool designs make chores easier as in opening jars. Professional cooks like professional wood workers know the importance of using only sharp knives. When used skillfully, it is more dangerous to use a dull knife than a sharp one. Using a utensil that is not suited for the task (improvising) is a sure invitation to an accident.  
The bathroom 
This is where most accidents in the house occur, usually from slipping. Bath and floor mats that provide good traction are essential for the purpose of preventing slips and falls. Hand bars are also crucial to prevent falls. Common flaws in bathroom design are low bathroom sinks and showerheads. These will tend precipitate low back and neck injuries respectively. All faucets in the house should be fitted with a user-friendly variety in which low force is necessary to turn the water on and off. Turning knobs that are poorly designed can put unnatural stress on the wrists thereby causing injury to wrist tendons. 

  • Ergonomics and kids

Why is it important? 
If we provide for their ergonomic needs we can increase children?s involvement in their environment and thereby cultivate mastery, productivity and independence.
A Place for Toys 
Children work at play and toys are their tools. They should have their toys and things stored in such a way that they are readily accessible. If their toys are organized in open shelves or in transparent bins children are visually reminded of what they have and as a result will stay involved and interact more with their physical surroundings The area of play is close to the ground and it should be safe from hazards and easy to clean. Since young children spend most of their time close to the ground they should have their own throw rug to protect the knees and provide a cushion from falls. 
Kids and Backpacks
Research is significant in view of the fact that school children are being burdened with heavier backpacks than ever before. Health care professionals are reporting increases in visits by children for various musculoskeletal complaints such as neck, back and shoulder pain, fatigue, muscle pain and numbness. Bags that are carried in one hand also put an uneven burden on the body. The pack should rest against the body naturally and the straps should be padded and as wide as possible.
Furniture for Children 
Chairs and tables must be proportionate to their size and the feet should be firmly planted on the ground or at least on a footrest. It is most practical to have furniture that can grow with the child. These include tables that have adjustable legs and chairs that have adjustable seats and footrest height. 
Ergonomics and the office
Why is it important? 
By incorporating ergonomic principles into the functional design of a contemporary office, the workers become more productive and efficient. Each worker's tasks center around a workstation and the configuration of the workstation depends on the performance duties of each worker.
Workstation 
The goal for each worker should be to maximize productivity and efficiency with minimal stress and injury. In a modern day office the centre of the worker's activity revolves around a computer, desk and chair. The application of ergonomics is most important to the activities that make up the bulk of the workers time. 
To prevent the worker from wasting energy by moving in and out of a chair, space must be used efficiently. The working area can be divided into zones. Zone 1 is the area containing materials most frequently accessed and therefore within a 12-inch reach. Those materials less frequently used are in zone 2 or within a 20-inch reach. Those materials that are seldom used are in Zone 3 or greater than 20 inches away from the worker.  The idea is to use shelving and cubicles that are compactly designed to organized things into respective zones. Sometimes it is necessary to organize shelving into portable units such as carts with casters. For ease of operation these casters should have low rolling resistance and a centralized locking system.  Unnecessary motions interrupt a smooth workflow and expend wasted energy. They also cause cumulative trauma to the back, neck and shoulders. Stretches and exercises can be performed at the workstation without disrupting the work routine. 
By taking a proactive role in initiating ergonomic programs the business bottom line is enhanced through worker productivity and decreased healthcare costs.

 

Ergonomics and factory/assembly work
Factory and assembly line type work is a carryover from the industrial revolution and has evolved over the years as a result of our increasing knowledge of ergonomics. The requirements of the work are extremely varied and the resulting consequences on human health can range from repetitive or cumulative trauma disorders to death. For this reason it is essential for companies to establish ergonomic programs for ensuring the safety, efficiency, and productivity of various jobs. 
It is a natural goal of these companies to minimize job related health costs and personnel turnover and to maximize productivity by workers. To this end it is important for companies to develop an overall ergonomic strategy as an integral part of their business strategy. Specifically these companies must come to understand how human performance issues contribute to production bottlenecks, problems in quality control, injury and turnover rates and how they can find solutions through production layout and tool design. 
Work Surfaces 
A worker is certain to get neck, upper back and shoulder pain if neck flexion exceeds 20 degrees for prolonged periods of time. The optimal viewing range is between horizontal and 45 degrees. Work surfaces should be round and padded where elbows, forearms and wrists can be rested. Certain work stations aids include ladders, stools and carts with casters ergonomically designed with low rolling resistance which have shock absorbing and noise free characteristics. They should have central locking systems and be equipped with proper push/pull assists. 

Ergonomics and Automotive Mechanics
Why is it Important?
The work of auto mechanics is particularly awkward and demanding and frequently results in abuse to the wrists, elbows, and spine in general. The worker?s body is forced to conform to the various engine configurations and auto design. Automobiles have evolved over the last few years toward smaller and more compact machines and as a result the mechanics tools have had to undergo a refinement in ergonomic design to function in very confined space. 
Working under the Hood 
In applying ergonomics to work we normally think of ?fitting the task to the human? but unfortunately in mechanic work we tend to ?fit the human to the task.? The result is cumulative trauma from long hours of awkward static postures. The mechanic is forced to lean forward while working under the hood of the vehicle and this leads to low back strain.
One way to work on engine parts under the hood that are particularly difficult to reach is by utilizing a special overhead creeper which consists of a padded chest board that is supported on top of a ladder-like apparatus.
The Mechanic Workstation 
The mechanic?s job is facilitated by setting up the workstation in a way that tools can be accessed quickly and without an unnecessary expenditure of energy.  To minimize the low back strain that results from manual lifting and carrying heavy engine parts and tools, sturdy utility carts with casters should be used as a means of transport. The casters should have low rolling resistance with shock dampening and noise free characteristics.  Tool carts with trays should be organized into a system which arranges the most frequently used tools within easy reach. The tools should be easily modified and portable depending on the nature of the job at hand.

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