Live the ergonomic life!
Sometimes good things emerge from conflict. Ergonomics had its beginnings in the second world war, when the logistics of moving large amounts of man and machinery gave rise to so many problems-such as backache; that for the first time physiologists, psychologists, anthropologists, medical doctors, work scientists and engineers, addressed the problems together and ergonomics was born.
So what is it and where do I get me some of it? We tend to think its about getting the best chair, perhaps with a bit of Feng Shui thrown in so that your chi is circulating freely in your office and not getting snagged up on your filing cabinet (corners are BAD!). Basically ergonomics is about fitting your environment-in particular your working environment, around you as a human and how you function. Now there’s a problem for a start- workstations have to accommodate anyone from a short women about 5’2 to a large bloke of about 6’4, that is a huge variation, so no wonder it is hard to get a good ‘fit’. Many factors have to be taken into account such as the flooring, which must be anti-fatigue; yes indeed- bad carpet can make you tired, and stress you out. Then there’s the noise level (yelling at your teenagers to turn the music down is a health issue), and don’t forget no drawer should be deeper than 12 inches,-not because it hides your underwear but because it could cause you strain rummaging for those lost socks.
Working environments must now comply with all manner of ideas to help us avoid injury of any kind and to keep us productive-a happy worker is a productive worker! But more and more of us work at home, either totally, because we’re self-employed or part time. And what about housework? Is washing up or pushing the vacuum around a repetitive activity? Who would help you if you developed RSI because your kitchen work surfaces were too low for you? Can you sue your child for being too heavy, (remember all that lifting and handling!) The list of what can go wrong if your workplace is not ergonomically conscious is large and frightening, from deafness if you are operating noisy machinery or a drummer in a rock band to a whole range of muscular skeletal disorders that could make your eyes water or leave you with a permanent limp.
The best way you can help yourself-either at work or at home is to remember that ergonomics is the art or recognising problems and offering solutions and that you are pretty good at that yourself. Keeping things tidy so that there are fewer objects to fall over is a good start and will earn you brownie points with the Feng Shui experts (chi stagnates around clutter!) Keep moving through your activities so that you avoid repetitive actions. Repetitive movements basically create tight muscles that build up lactic acid and don’t allow the blood to flow freely to flush out the acid. Don’t do all the vacuuming in one go-swap it for a bit of dusting or hanging the washing out and then come back to the vacuuming. That way you keep moving-stretching different muscles and giving yourself a gentle work-out as you go, Changing your activities in this way is one of the best kept secrets of avoiding fatigue and injury. You are designed to move-not stay still and to perform a variety of tasks, not the same thing over and over again. So go on-sort your home-office out-tell the cat to stop sleeping on the stairs and tripping you up-get the kids a toy box so that everything is in its place, and if you are a tall person either get your kitchen redesigned or make sure you bend your knees when you work there. Move frequently and feely-live the ergonomic life!