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Yesterday was a good day.  The ERGOLAB team is working with a leading luxury goods manufacturer and marketer to address high risk tasks within production facilities.  The program is moving forward nicely, our redesign is in test phase, solution validation is right around the corner.  Company A is thrilled with the outcome.  

The day BEFORE yesterday…that day wasn’t quite as good.  Similar work on behalf of a different ERGOLAB client continues to stall out, lose momentum and  focus.  This task redesign work lauched months before the above mentioned case study, yet we have little to show for it.  Company B is frustrated, and rightly so.   

At first blush, the clients are very similar; industry leaders, global brands, organizational commitment to Ergonomic practices.  So….why the difference?  Why is Company A so much further along that Company B?   

One word.  EMPOWERMENT.  

At Company A, the culture encourages and rewards employee ‘intrapreneurship’ (think entrepreneurship BUT inside a company structure, not out).  Have a new idea to streamline a process and improve productivity?  Pitch the idea to your up line manager.  Company A employees are expected to partner with management in the continuous improvement initiatives of the company.  As consultants, ERGOLAB gets to partner with client employees who are engaged and invested in the program and it’s outcomes.  There is nothing better than working within a client community of people with pride, enthusiasm, and passion for their work and workplace.   Empowered employees make us look good.  

Company B does not practice an Empowerment management philosophy.  Employee roles are narrowly defined.  Suggestions are accepted, but rarely acted upon.  The employees want to participate in making their workplace a better place, but the current management style doesn’t allow for that type of a role.  Driving positive change at Company B is a challenge; as our ERGOLAB methodologies require employee participation and collaboration in all phases of solution development and testing.   Our biggest hurdle is often MANAGEMENT; their need to control and edit employee involvement and access to ALL the information is a real roadblock. 

So…what about your company?   As an employer, have you created an environment that encourages employee empowerment?      

To paraphrase Lao Tzu in the Tao of Leadership; 

The leader is best… 

When his work is done, his aim fulfilled,  

The people say, ‘We did it ourselves.


Well….the cat is out of the bag.  All this time, American business has been worried about a new attempt by OSHA to create an Ergonomic specific regulation.  Business organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce and others were lining up resources for another fight.  Well folks….it looks like the ‘war’ was won without a single shot.   Hidden in plain sight, is all the regulatory muscle OSHA needs; the general duty clause.

WHAT?  Yes it’s true. During an April 7th web chat, Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab stressed that OSHA’s enforcement of ergonomic issues is a key strategic component, and will increase, noting that the general duty clause will be used to cite ergonomic violations.   THE GENERAL DUTY CLAUSE.  It’s not sexy or flashy….but this approach and regulation has teeth.  

The General Duty Clause of the United States Occupational Safety and Health Act (Federal OSHA) states:

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)1: Each employer shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(a)2: Each employer shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this act.

29 U.S.C. § 654, 5(b): Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.

Couple the above general duty clause with the new column in the OSHA 300 log capturing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the workplace, and you can begin to see why an Ergonomic specific regulation might not be necessary!

Assistant Secretary for OSHA Dr. David Michaels commented that,

OSHA’s field staff will be looking for ergonomic hazards in their inspections and we will be providing them with the support and back-up they need to enforce under the general duty clause. In addition, we will be examining employer logs to see if MSDs are accurately reported,” illustrating the increased emphasis on recordkeeping logs, during OSHA inspections. Michaels stated that OSHA plans to “take a hard look” at employer policies that discourage injury reporting.

You have to give OSHA leadership their ‘props’…the approach is an intelligent, common-sense approach.  No big expensive fight.  Apply the regs that are there….end of story.  

What are your thoughts on OSHA’s new tact????  Agree or disagree??

If you’d like to discuss, feel free to email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or 401.527.7047.


Great research from the Gartner Group!  Gartner has been tracking the acceptance and use of new technologies; in particular, the acceptance of newer touchscreen technology.    What was once the fantasy of the Star Trek and Star Wars generations (I am a Star Wars kid – Star Trek was already in re-runs – REALLY)  is now reality; Kindle, iPod, iPhone, iPad…the list goes on and on. 

Touchscreen is a game-changer that increases user productivity.    What’s surprising, is the slow adoption of BUSINESS to adopt the new technology.  According to Gartner,  

The immediate productivity gains promised by the flood of touch-enabled devices coming to market in 2010 will be slow to materialize in the enterprise.

For more on the Gartner research follow this link –  http://www.gartner.com/it/page.jsp?id=1336913

I asked our ERGOLAB team about the growing touchscreen use; some food for thought about the Ergonomic implications;

  • Parents should continue to proactively manage their children’s use of ALL technology, regardless of interface (keyboard, mouse or touchscreen).   The inherent risk of long-term use of computing or gaming tools are about body postures while using ANY technology.  Out-of-neutral body postures over time contribute to pain, discomfort and eventual injury.  Parents, for more guidance on your kids and avoiding Ergonomic issues – check out our blog post   http://bit.ly/ERGOLABKids
  • Any touchscreen requires the user to sit within arm’s reach of the device.  Simply replacing a traditional computer monitor with a touch-enabled screen is not acceptable.  In most cases, this new screen will be outside of the acceptable ‘Reach envelope’. What is the Reach Envelope?

The following tool (image provided by John Wick of J&J Consulting)  is used to layout and organize seated workstations to ensure that there are no extreme posture requirements and to ensure that the individual is primarily assuming neutral working postures.

The point of operation should be within the primary zone (within 14”) “where the hands do the work”.  The location of tools (phone books, files, stapler, phone, calculator, etc.) can cause extreme ranges of motion in the wrist, elbows, shoulders and back and should be placed within the secondary zone in order to eliminate extreme positions (within 24”) of the individual and laterally 45 degrees from the shoulder (figure 1) (1). This criterion is based on anthropometric data representing 90% of the population.  Those either under 4’11” or over 6’2” may need further accommodations.

  • Most of the new touch-enabled tools are mobile, hand held devices.   Our recent blog posts on the Apple iPad scratch the surface of the Ergonomic issues related to this new category of touch-enabled tools. 

The Apple iPad has all the Ergonomic challenges associated with the laptop AND takes another step in the WRONG DIRECTION.  Typing on the iPad touchscreen while the iPad rests on a flat surface will force the neck into more extreme static neck flexion or extension depending on the users posture. Eye strain is also a risk.  TRANSLATED – typing on the iPad for any stretch of time will create neck pain, possible eye strain and could cause injury. 

The ability to attach a keyboard to the iPad (the iPad Dock) was a good move by Apple; but no consideration was given into the lack of adjustability of the height of the screen once it is attached to the iPad Dock. This was a missed opportunity by Apple to address head-on the Ergonomic issues related to laptop use (these issues are well-documented).  The ability to telescope the iPad up and down would allow the iPad to be adjusted to the proper height for the user, ensuring neutral neck postures and subsequently, comfortable viewing.

What are your thoughts on touchscreen technology and the Ergonomic implications?  We’d love to hear from you.

If you’d like to connect directly on this blog post or any Ergonomic issue, I can be reached by phone 401.527.7047 or e-mail cdavis@ergonomicedge.com.


Our ERGOLAB team are big fans of the work coming from Liberty Mutual’s Occupational Safety and Health Research facility.     Their most recent edition of their quarterly newsletter, “From Research to Reality” drills down on the topic of Occupational Fatigue; the insights surfaced in their proprietary research are eye-opening.    

At ERGOLAB, our Ergonomists and Occupational Safety & Health Engineers are often asked to assess Health & Safety risks within production environments where operations are a 24/7/365 proposition; multiple work tasks across multiple shifts.   When analyzing OSHA recordable within a facility, time and again we would see the same data patterns; injury rates increase deeper into every 8 hour shift, and higher injury rates for PM versus AM shifts.  This research from Liberty Mutual VALIDATES these patterns AND takes the insights to the next logical step; developing schedule management tools that assist Production and Manufacturing leadership in building schedules that minimize and ideally eliminate all risk.   Liberty Mutual’s new scheduling software, SIRE, takes this learning into consideration in the build out of work schedules for multi-shift environments.  At the bottom of this post we’ll provide the links to the Liberty Mutual software application SIRE!

Some of the highlights from this research;

  • The risk of injury increases dramatically after the 8th hour of shift

  • Morning shift employees have the lowest risk of injury, or “Relative Risk”
  • Afternoon shift employee risk of injury increases 15% from Morning shift risk
  • Evening Shift employee risk of injury increases by 30% from Morning shift risk
  • An employees risk of injury increases as the time between rest breaks increases!   As an example, the risk of injury DOUBLES if the time between breaks is more than 91 minutes.
  • An employee who works successive DAILY shifts – daytime or nighttime – the risk increases day to day.  The following chart details the escalation

 

The impact of occupational fatigue is very real and will influence any Ergonomic consulting initiative; particularly within a production / multi-shift environment.   As Ergonomists, it is critical we understand the complexity of the equation, this will ensure we deliver high value consulting to our clients.

Link to Liberty Mutual Newsletter and SIRE software solution; http://bit.ly/ERGOLABFatigue

Any questions specific to this post, feel free to contact me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or 401.527.7047.


Who among us hasn’t had a parent tell us at one time or another to do something…”because I said so“.  No logic or rational argument. No Oprah moment of sharing and DIALOGUE with the conclusion being a collaborative solution where both parties feel respected and validated.  NOPE.  Because I said so is the conversational equivalent of the slammed door. It’s my way or the highway. 

Parents can get away with this tactic; the world is a fast-moving complex place. Sometimes ‘dialogue’ is a nice-to-have and immediate, bottom-line results are the must have.   We all understand why this happens; I am sure some of us have used the ‘because I said so’ go-to technique in a pinch….it gets results. 

In the workplace, the ‘because I said so’ technique evolved into the Command & Control style of management. This philosophy is about strong centralized leadership aggressively leading and micro-managing all aspects of the employees working existence.   This approach has fallen out of favor (thankfully) and most managers will tell you that they take an Empowerment approach to management.  Set clear goals, provide your teams with the tools to reach those goals and GET OUT OF THE WAY. (with the exception of periodic reviews, employee driven).    As consultants, the ERGOLAB team is brought in to launch new programs with new ideas around Employee Health & Safety.  When we are brought in to launch a new Ergonomics program, we often find that the current management state-of-affairs falls well short of the Empowerment nirvana.  Employees are every company’s first level of customer; if they don’t believe in you, who will?

Successful Ergonomic programs start and end with employee trust, participation and support. Following are some ideas to ensuring success of your Ergonomic program efforts – be sure not to practice ‘because I said so Ergonomics’!

1. TRANSPARENCY

Utter transparency will deliver TRUST.  When launching a new Ergonomics program; be candid about the investment.  Tell them what you expect to gain from the program and how it might impact them and their jobs.  Change is scary, especially today, with concerns about job security and cost cutting.  A few weeks ago, the ERGOLAB team completed a Pain and Discomfort survey on behalf of a leading consumer products manufacturer. Our team was asked to map the existing pain and discomfort across a community of production employees, towards identifying work tasks that trigger or amplify employee pain.  What we were not prepared for, was the level of apprehension within the survey participants. Employees thought the data would drive future lay-off decisions; rather than workplace improvements that would improve the quality of their life. 

LESSON LEARNED – over communicate the launch of a new Ergonomics program.  Surface any issues and roadblocks prior to program launch.  Build a reputation internally for consistently communicating the unvarnished truth, no more, no less. 

2. COMMUNICATION

Just as you build ‘marketing communication campaigns to woo prospects, customers, shareholders and the press; so too should you build communication strategies that address the mind share and heart share of your employee communities.  How your employees FEEL about your company, your value proposition, your management practices factor into long-term success. At ERGOLAB, we integrate Communication and Education Planning into EVERY Ergonomic program. 

3. COLLABORATION

Involve and engage affected employees in the development and on-going management of Ergonomic programs. Don’t make the mistake of building the solutions OUTSIDE of the employee community. Your employees are closet to the work itself, who better to surface ideas and suggestions for process improvement?   What form can this participation take;

  • Create a company-wide Ergonomics committee with representation from all parts of the enterprise. Health & Safety leadership should chair committee, but an equal voice and vote should be afforded all committee members.
  • Task Evaluation and Redesign should always be driven by the hands-on employee teams.
  • Employees should participate in the brainstorming and program development of Communication & Education Plan.
  • Train the Trainer programs; transfer program knowledge to internal team members. Any message is more powerful and impactful when delivered by a departmental peer.

4. REWARDS / RECOGNITION

Recognize and reward employees for support of program; catch employees engaging in the ‘right’ actions and behaviors.  Showcase and merchandise these internal success stories within the Communication Plan – make the employees the heroes in all successes. Management MUST take a back seat.

  • Expand employee job descriptions and objectives to include adherence to and support of Ergonomic initiatives.
  • Identify expanded roles within departmental teams – ensure team members receive recognition (title and compensation) for this expanded role.

Avoid the pitfalls of ‘Because I said so’ Ergonomics; expanded employee involvement and investment will ensure program success and have immediate impact of your facility’s safety and bottom line.

Any questions on this, feel free to contact our ERGOLAB team. I can be reached at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or via phone at 401.527.7047.


OSHA’s plan to expand workplace injury reporting has rattled quite a few cages.  The prospect of adding a column (yes, a column) to the existing OSHA 300 log has business up in arms.   The enhanced report would isolate  musculoskeletal disorders (or MSD) injuries.  

NOTE – The term MSD is used to describe a category of Ergonomic-related injuries that affect the musculoskeletal system; there is no single diagnosis for MSDs. It is believed that OSHA’s intent with this expansion in reporting is to determine whether there is a pattern of ergonomic-related injuries in certain jobs or work tasks.

Could reporting lead to regulation?   Maybe.  Regulation would be a stretch right now; Democratic leadership is playing rope-a-dope on so many fronts – healthcare reform to name one – we can’t imagine the Labor Department is anxious to ‘rile up’ business with the introduction of Ergonomic regulation.

Reporting….regulation…WHATEVER.   Our ERGOLAB team’s mission is to build a sound business case as to why Ergonomics MUST be a central element in every business’ Safety & Health strategy.  Ergonomics should not be a business ‘like to have’; Ergonomics should be a ‘must have’ because it makes good  business sense.   Shift the discussion from Reporting or Regulation to the RISK of doing nothing AND the Return-on-Investment or ROI of a proactive strategy.

At a client meeting yesterday, our ERGOLAB team was presenting findings from a facility-wide Pain & Discomfort survey.  This type of survey is a great starting point for any company looking to baseline their current ‘RISK’ related to Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs. Employees are asked to rate, from 1 to 5 (low to high) their level of pain &/or discomfort across 38 areas of the body. In addition, they are also asked to identify what work tasks or activities trigger or amplify their pain.  Our deliverables; a map of the quantity and severity of employee pain &/discomfort and insights into the tasks that may be the cause of or contributing to employee injury. This details the existing RISK of pain symptoms across the employee community; Ergonomic and Human Factors research (and common sense) tells us that if no change is made to the current work environment, employee pain will continue to escalate and injury is very possible. 

Following is a view of the RISK progression of ‘unaddressed’ employee pain and discomfort over time.   Get proactive with your company’s approach to Ergonomics; focus your energies on the ROI of Ergonomics.

As always, we are here to help!  Contact us at the ERGOLAB with any questions, or if you’d like to discuss scheduling a Pain and Discomfort survey at your facility. Email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com or call 401 – 527 – 7047.


This blog post was triggered by a question asked by a client during a work session last week (we are re-designing several work tasks within their work environment); she approached us (Frances Pisano our Chief Ergonomist and myself) during a break.  Her son, only 9 years old, had been complaining of pain in his hands and wrists. According to his mom, he spends hours playing his DSi, and has his own cell phone and is just getting into texting.  Her question;

“Is this an Ergonomic issue? Could my 9 year old have a Repetitive Strain Injury?   What should I do?

A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation confirmed what most parents already know;  kids of today are voracious consumers of new media and new technology. The average eleven year old owns a television, laptop computer, cell phone,  MP3 player, gaming system (Sony PS4, Wii)  and a hand-held game or learning device (DSi, LeapFrog).  Children are spending HOURS everyday texting, Tweeting, gaming, downloading music and watching programming.   Texting alone accounts for almost 2 hours per day!  The average number of texts per day is  more than 100! That’s a lot of keystrokes.

Gaming, texting and computing are all activities that require typing.  Small, precise movements with the wrists, hands, and fingers, particularly the thumb.  The body parts involve small muscle groups that fatigue easily and are highly susceptible to Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).   The American Society of Hand Therapists has issued several consumer alerts, warning users of small electronic gadgets that heavy thumb use could lead to painful swelling of the sheath around the tendons in the thumb.   “Blackberry Thumb” the term popularized a few years ago to describe the pain, discomfort and damage caused by excessive texting/emailing on the popular Blackberry PDAs, is being diagnosed in younger and younger patients. 

MOM AND DAD, here’s the reality; your child needs your protection and guidance. 

1.0  BECOME AN EXPERT

Educate yourself on the Ergonomic realities surrounding the use of computers and hand-held devices.  Cornell University’s Human Factors & Ergonomics Department offers an informational web site (http://ergo.human.cornell.edu) that is a great starting point.   Their content on children and computer use will be very eye-opening.

Share this learning with your child; obviously this will be driven by their age and maturity level.  Make them a partner in this process if / when you can.

2.0  MANAGE USAGE

Take control of your child’s use of technology.  Monitor and manage your child’s use of all electronic / computing devices.   Don’t leave it up to the kid…hey THEY’RE KIDS.  They need you to make the hard choices.  Expect to be unpopular. Expect pushback.  

APPLY THE 30 MINUTE RULE.  Limit usage of any device to 30 minutes.   This will dramatically reduce risk of potential injury.   

Take a look at the body postures your child uses when computing, gaming, texting and talking.  Provide guidance on body postures and their importance. “Catch” your child in healthy body postures; recognize and reward this behaviors with extra privileges. (Except MORE TIME with their technology)

3.0  LEAD BY EXAMPLE

What tools and devices do you use for work and life?   Do you practice sound ERGONOMICS?  If your answer is NO or MAYBE….you have work to do.  Provide a great example for your child and TALK ABOUT IT.   Your kids will model, emulate your behavior. If you pay attention to these issues, they will too. 

4.0  GET INVOLVED AT THEIR SCHOOL

Other than your home environment, no other place has more impact and influence on your child’s Ergonomic health.

Get involved in your school’s Parent / teacher organizations.  Introduce the topic of Ergonomics to the agenda; push for an open discussion about how, when, where and why your kids are using electronic devices.  

5.0     LOW HANGING FRUIT – THE BACKPACK

Do you know how many books your kid is lugging around everyday?   Find out. Talk to your child’s teacher.  On average, your child should carry NO MORE than 5% of their body weight.  Following are guideline provided by the American Chiropractic Association (ACA) specific to a person’s weight and the ideal MAXIMUM backpack weight.

* No one should carry more than 25 lbs in a backpack

Invest in a quality backpack for your child.  Forgo the Hannah Montana or Dallas Cowboys backpack for a quality ERGONOMICALLY designed product, look for;

  • Smaller is better – you can’t over pack a small backpack
  • High quality rip-stop fabric
  • Wide, well- padded straps
  • Superior adjustability

 

Bottom line – your child’s Ergonomic Health is up to you. Your example, guidance and persistence will ensure their safety and well-being. 

Following are some links to valuable information:

Kaiser Family Foundation Study – http://www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/8010.pdf

International Children’s Ergonomics – http://www.icefonline.org/


Very quietly and with no fanfare or hoopla, OSHA enabled a new database search capability that permits you & I to see a high level view of the workplace accident and injury data of any US-based business.  The story was lost in the buzz about Apples’s new iPad, The State of the Union Address, and Super Bowl hype.   

Here is the link to the new database:  http://bit.ly/ERGOLABOSHA

Our ERGOLAB team was thrilled to see this information made public; our Ergonomic practice (www.ErgonomicEdge.com), is part of an Environmental Health & Safety firm (www.PisanoAssociates.com). Injury and accident results are the fundamental metrics we use to gauge Health & Safety program success.   These numbers are our report card.

So…you’re probably thinking, this data has been collected for years and search technology is nothing new. Why is OSHA making this data available and visible?  Why now?

1.0    (They promised) or  TRANSPARENCY is Good Politics

Throughout the presidential  primaries and general election, the Obama team positioned themselves as Washington outsiders, intent on driving CHANGE . No more business as usual.  The word transparency made its way into every stump speech. The promise, no more meetings behind closed doors, no more cloak and dagger.  The American public has the right to know what it’s government is doing; the Obama Presidency would be different.  

From the moment Labor Secretary Hilda Solis took over, OSHA has moved aggressively towards transparency;

“Making injury and illness information available to the public is part of OSHA’s response to the administration’s commitment to make government more transparent to the American people,” said David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for OSHA.

  Politics or not, OSHA’s move is a good one.

2.0      ACCELERATE BUSINESS ACCOUNTABILITY

“You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” (quote source unknown)

A fundamental principle in the military, where a dropped assignment can translate into lost lives. Behavior is the function of its consequences.

In the regulatory world, the Environmental Protection Agency is high trump. When the EPA is mentioned to a business owner or executive, the response is action and urgency. Why?  The EPA’s inspection and enforcement arm is swift and punitive. Companies operating outside of regulatory compliance will pay dearly for that state. EPA non-compliance is a game changer, and businesses know it. The EPA gets what they inspect.

OSHA is taken less seriously; companies all across the country ‘whistle past the graveyard’ specific to workplace Safety & Health regulations.  OSHA’s inspection arm has historically been under-staffed and reactive.  The new administration has added inspectors and is working towards a proactive model, however that change will take time. 

So…why did OSHA give you searchable access to this data?

You have been deputized. OSHA has just deputized millions of citizen inspectors all across the country.  You can become the eyes and ears of OSHA.  What’s the first thing you’ll do?  Check out the track record of your employer, your spouses’ employer, the record of the company down the street.  

OSHA wants YOU to inspect for them, extend their reach. 

3.0      THE POWER OF PUBLIC PRESSURE

In the world of public pressure and scrutiny, there will be winners and there will be losers.

Company A and Company B both manufacture windshields and are located in the same small town. 

Company A has embraced workplace Health & Safety as a driving principle of their company. Company A employs Health & Safety professionals; program management is proactive and audited regularly. Company A employees participate in periodic training sessions, Safety is a part of their job responsibilities, they are bonused upon their contributions to a ‘Safer’ workplace. No surprise, Company A has a spotless accident and injury record.  The entire company takes pride in this performance.

Company B takes a more lax approach to Health & Safety. Program ownership resides in many different places in the business; no professional Health & Safety staff works at Company B. Company B’s employees don’t participate in regular Safety & Health training, the only communication they get are a few posters on the team room wall.   Company B addresses issues after there is a problem, their accident and injury record is very poor. 

SCENARIO

You are looking for a job – both companies have offered you a position.  Which offer will you accept? 

After researching the company, searching their accident and injury history, you select Company A.   Why?   Employees want to work for a company that values their health and well-being. 

SCENARIO

A corporate buyer, you are looking for a new supplier of windshields.  Which company will become your new supplier?

The buyer will also select Company A.  In business, the old axiom, ‘You are the company you keep’ applies.  A company’s supply chain is sacrosanct; Company B’s practices would reflect negatively on the corporate buyer’s organization. Why take that risk? 

Company’s in good standing will be rewarded for their work; companies with poor track records will lose employees and lose contracts.  OSHA is relying on public scrutiny and action to drive change.  OSHA won’t need thousands of new inspectors; they’ll let the market drive change.

We’d love to get your point-of-view on OSHA’s new approach. Drop us a line. 


I can remember when I started out in the professional world, my father gave me some advice, in his words, “In business there are 3 things you NEVER discuss”  (for fear of offending or alienating with anyone with a differing point-of-view);

1. Religion

2. Sex

3. Politics

Well….after our blog post 2 days ago on ERGOLAB’s concerns with the ergonomic issues of the Apple iPad, I am nominating another topic that is not open to discussion or questioning. 

    4.     Apple (and anything having to do Apple, it’s products, leadership etc)

The response from Apple nation was impressive and loud. Apple has a fantastic reputation for excellence in product design; creating products that anticipate consumer needs intuitively. Apple users are passionate and proud of their community.  

Some reader comments;

– Apple might be leaving the heavy lifting to the after-market.  Similar to the iPod series, the iPhone, and the iTouch, Apple is relying on the secondary market to address the ergonomic issues around the product; outside ideas and design will fill the gaps.  If this is their thinking, we are a little disappointed Apple did not address the issues within the core design.  This device does not come cheap; after investing $499 for the iPad unit; ergonomic accessories could add another $100 or more to that price tag.  Our concern is that many consumers will do without the enhancements; due to budget or ignorance of the ergonomic risks.

– Under pressure to deliver a tablet device to the market (Apple’s original target date was October 2009), Apple chose to release an interim model. An enhanced version will be offered at a later date. If this is the case, delay your purchase and wait for increased functionality and sound ergonomics. Particularly if you plan on using the iPad as a small format ‘writing’ or ‘creating’  tool.

-Loving the iPhone and slamming the iPad is hypocritical.  Yes, the iPhone poses some ergonomic issues, texting being #1 on the list.  Human Factors research proves that the mechanics of texting, regardless of device, are damaging.  I would counter your comments with this; the iPhone was never positioned or marketed as a replacement for the laptop.  The Apple iPad is being marketed in this way; a SLIPPERY SLOPE in our eyes. People will use this device for writing, with or without the iPad Dock accessory, that usage is high risk. 

– A very agitated Apple worshipper demanded that I return my iPhone, my laptop and go back to those big ugly, clunky desktops of yesteryear.  I hit a nerve with him. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The Apple iPad has ergonomic flaws. 

Take a look at the Apple provided promotional photo to the left, our ERGOLAB team identified several risk factors FROM APPLE’S OWN MARKETING MATERIALS!

Photo 1 – The left hand holding this device is in EXTREME STATIC ulnar deviation, which is a well-known risk factor for the wrist.  Check out the extended index finger; this product will lead to overuse of the index finger due to repetitive and prolonged scrolling. Don’t get us started on the risks to the ‘one-finger’ typists who will use iPad for emailing, document creation and more.

Photo 2 – Both wrists are in EXTREME STATIC wrist extension. This position is often the culprit, in causing carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) and other wrist Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI).

These identified risks scratch the surface ergonomically.  The Apple iPad is not well-designed to support computing – writing emails or creating documents.  Typing on the iPad, while it is laying on a flat surface, creates static neck flexion which causes discomfort, pain and possibly REAL INJURY. 

If you buy this product – do not type for long stretches. Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI) can and will occur.  If you choose to adapt your iPad; adding the docking system and keyboard, static neck flexion is reduced, BUT STILL PRESENT.  Injury is possible even with investment in the iPad Dock with keyboard.

The bottom line; using this device ‘as-is’ poses real risk of injury. It’s our responsibility at ERGOLAB to surface these issues, it’s our job, it’s what we do.  Just don’t shoot the messenger.

What’s your point-of-view on the Apple iPad?  We’d love to hear from you.


I, like many of you, am addicted to the iPhone.  This love affair began almost 14 months ago; together my iPhone and I have surfed the web, dined in the finest restaurants, navigated the world, and downloaded app after app. We’ve Tweeted, Friended and Linked.  I think it’s forever. No…I know it’s forever.

Today, the company responsible for my iPhone introduced a new member of the Apple family, the Apple  iPad.  Would it be love again?? Would this iPad wiggle it’s way into my life and my affections?

Sadly, what began with such promise and hope…is now dashed.  While my iPhone love has transformed my life;  how I make phone calls, surf the web, connect to friends and clients through social media like Twitter, Linked In and Facebook, and yes, even update this blog – the iPad is little more than a giant iTouch.  It’s a ‘tweener’ product, elbowing it’s way into the Apple family portrait.  Bigger than an iTouch with a larger QWERTY touchscreen  but without the computing power and reach of the Apple Powerbook lines.  

Beyond my personal realization that the Apple iPad doesn’t seem to have a place and purpose in my own life, our ERGOLAB team has some deeper concerns with the ERGONOMIC implications of the product.  We already know that laptops can create significant Ergonomic challenges without tricking the tool out with accessories; docking station, keyboard, keyboard tray, monitor, monitor arm and wireless mouse.  Once we have pimped out our laptop with Ergonomic accessories, the configuration must be adjusted (ideally by a trained Ergonomist) to ensure neutral body postures and avoid injury.   WHEW…exhausting.

The Apple iPad has all the Ergonomic challenges associated with the laptop AND takes another step in the WRONG DIRECTION.  Typing on the iPad touchscreen while the iPad rests on a flat surface will force the neck into more extreme static neck flexion or extension depending on the users posture. Eye strain is also a risk.  TRANSLATED – typing on the iPad for any stretch of time will create neck pain, possible eye strain and could cause injury. 

The ability to attach a keyboard to the iPad (the iPad Dock) was a good move by Apple; but no consideration was given into the lack of adjustability of the height of the screen once it is attached to the iPad Dock. This was a missed opportunity by Apple to address head-on the Ergonomic issues related to laptop use (these issues are well-documented).  The ability to telescope the iPad up and down would allow the iPad to be adjusted to the proper height for the user, ensuring neutral neck postures and subsequently, comfortable viewing.

Take a look Flybook’s VM Theory laptop – pictured below – the solutions are out in the marketplace; it is a shame Apple didn’t take this opportunity to address the Ergonomic limitations of small format computing (laptop and tablet formats).

What are your thoughts on the Apple iPad?  We’d love to hear from you.

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