There once was an ergonomist, who lived on a hill

I vacationed last week at a cottage which, like many lakeside island properties, was elevated from the lake. We’ve spent quite a lot of leisure time at this property, and so we’ve come to appreciate the view that the elevation provides. We also try to appreciate the exercise that is associated with hauling groceries, water, luggage, and other items from the dock to the cottage.

So what would an ergonomist do, faced with this regular challenge? Cottagers find solutions to this common problem in many ways.

Firstly, the “administrative controls”:

No one person is responsible for hauling all of the materials; sharing the load is the first line of defense. Even when it comes to unloading the boat, a team effort is expected. We apply other common ergonomics advice, of course:

  • Keep the heavy items off the floor of the boat.
  • Lift from the boat to the dock (rather than reaching down into the boat from the dock).
  • Avoid purchasing items in the heaviest quantities. (A 12-pack of cans is much more island-friendly than a case of 24 bottles.)
  • Team-lift the items that are too heavy to safely lift alone, such as lumber.
  • Wear sensible shoes for walking and carrying over uneven terrain.
  • Avoid manual handling during the heat of the day.
  • Make the path as smooth and well-lit as possible.

Next, we implemented a low-cost simple machine solution – the marina cart! We use a wheelbarrow-style cart to push items up the hill. This saves considerable effort by avoiding carrying! We load the cart from the boat and then push the cart uphill to the cottage.

Long-ago cottage owners installed and used an electric lift…it’s no longer in the most convenient location because the main dock has been moved to deeper waters. It’s easy to see why they needed a mechanical way to transport items up the steep, slippery rock face where the dock used to be.

Plato said that “Necessity is the mother of invention” and I think that’s a brilliant statement. The electric lift was an “engineering control” that allowed the work to be done. When the dock was moved, a marina cart was sufficient for most needs.

What necessities have spawned inventions in your world?

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