“I like work, it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” Jerome K. Jerome, 1889
Jerome Jerome was not an ergonomist, but he could have been. Like him, we like to watch people work – we like figuring out what they are doing, and why. We like to understand why different people do the same tasks differently. We like figuring out what might cause discomfort, and how we can change work so that it can be done comfortably. Ergonomics is more than “looking at” work, but we do find work intensely fascinating.
2020 will be the year that Taylor’d Ergo celebrates 25 years in business. Most people can’t imagine starting a career right out of University, and staying in that same career for more than 30 years, but this field offers so much variety that we have never been bored.
We are fortunate to work in different sectors, with a variety of stakeholders, from engineers to injured workers. But even if one of us was assigned exclusively to office ergo assessments for months at a time, we’d still find the job fascinating:
• How is it possible for someone to want his keyboard tray lower than thigh height? (Turns out, some people have long arms and short torsos. When they sit with their shoulders relaxed and elbows bent at 90 degrees, their fingers are below thigh height.)
• Why is it common, after all these years of chair innovation, for a backrest to fail to fit a curvy woman’s lumbar curve?
• If we can buy a wide seat pan, why doesn’t anyone sell a wide footrest?
The market for ergonomic office products has come a long way in 30 years. It’s relatively easy to understand what might cause discomfort for a computer user, and to correct the issues through adjustments, repairs, work practices, and purchases. In an industrial, municipal, health care, or service job, the hazards and solutions can be more challenging:
• the tasks of concern might occur infrequently
• variability from day to day can make the issues harder to understand.
• vendors are less motivated to develop solutions. For every 100 Canadians sitting on office chairs which need to be replaced every so often, perhaps only 1 Canadian would use a patient lift. (That’s our guess – no stats!)
Until every job has been assessed and optimised, we’ll have an abundance of ergo challenges to keep us engaged until retirement.
Ergonomist: Best. Job. Ever.