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Posts Tagged ‘iPad Ergonomic issues’


Our ERGOLAB team spends a lot of time working in office environments; the day man met PC was a glorious one for workplace accountability – nothing like a digital trail to keep things on the up and up….not so great for the human body.  Why?  As work tasks became more and more automated, our work days became more sedentary. 

Our body was not designed to sit for 8 hours a day; we’re all familiar with the Ergonomics axiom, “the best body posture (position) is the NEXT body posture (position).  Our bodies were designed to hunting, gathering, foraging for food, and sometimes running away VERY quickly when WE became the potential ‘food’ (…and NO, battling the crowds at your local farmer’s market does not qualify as ‘foraging’).   We need movement, we need a variety of position and posture to maintain good body health and flexibility. 

In the past, corporate Health & Safety leadership often overlooked the needs and risks within their office environments; cubicle dwellers don’t use pneumatic equipment, drive a forktruck or work with hazardous materials. Accidents and injuries occurred in other places in the enterprise, except the occasional slip, trip or fall, the office harbored few (or so they thought) risks.  Now, with 20+ years of data  and learning behind us, we understand the very real and very expensive risks associated with unmanaged office ergonomics.  With the average cost of ONE musculoskeletal disorder averaging $25,000 in direct costs and 5 to 8 times that number in indirect costs…a passive approach to office ergonomics is NOT good business. 

Still…old myths and misconceptions in Office Ergonomics die hard. 

Misconception #1

The right chair will solve ALL your problems.  WRONG!   A personal pet peeve and a myth that must DIE (and remember, we SELL ergonomic chairs and tools at www.ergonomicedge.com ).  The office chair, while very important, is one element within an INTEGRATED Ergonomic solution.  Office system manufacturers spend millions to reinforce the belief that a chair (more importantly, their chair) is the answer.  There is no magic chair. Or for that matter keyboard tray, mouse, docking station or document holder.  Products are tools our ERGOLAB Ergonomists use, case by case, client by client, to build an Ergonomic solution, properly designed, personally adjusted, with adequate employee education and product training (you’d be amazed how many companies have NO IDEA how their existing chairs adjust…).  At ERGOLAB, we lead with Ergonomic guidance first…products are a very very distant second.  

Misconception #2

Repetitive Motion is the #1 cause of ergonomic injury.   WRONG!    Yes, repetitive ‘Out-of-Neutral’ motions can and do cause injuries. An example would be anyone who works on spreadsheets for long periods of their day; these folks do A LOT of cutting and pasting within the spreadsheets.  Over the long term, overuse can lead to pain, discomfort and injury.   What surprises most corporate Health & Safety Managers, is that STATIC  “Out-of-Neutral” body postures cause far more injuries….we are a generation of leaners and reachers.   Sitting in a chair for hours at a stretch invites poor postures; next time you are in a lengthy meeting, check out the body positions of everyone around you…..leaning, slouching, etc.  All positions that put extreme stress and pressure on our bodies.   

This underscores the value of careful, thoughtful office design; the cubicle footprint is often driven by ECONOMIC imperatives, rather than ERGONOMIC imperatives.  Think  adjustability of worksurfaces, up/down, in/out.  Make sure all employee tools fall within the REACH ENVELOPE…don’t ask an employee to reach and lean to talk on the phone or lean forward to view a monitor.    

Misconception #3

Office Ergonomics is a ‘hard sell’ in these tough economic times.   WRONG!   Now is precisely the time to integrate Office Ergonomics into your Health & Safety plans for your next fiscal year.  Let’s face it, everyone is working with reduced headcount. This means your current work staff needs to do more…..MUCH MORE….with less.  You need these employees to stay healthy and productive.  Beyond this, Worker’s Compensation costs are soaring…a proactive Ergonomics approach is about preempting injury. Fewer injuries, fewer claims, lower PREMIUMS.   In tough economic times, you can’t afford NOT to invest in Office Ergonomics. 

Misconception #4

Every employee needs the same Ergonomic tools.  WRONG!      Ergonomic solutions are personal; an employees height and body size, health conditions, work functions and personal habits all contribute to and inform an Ergonomic solution.   A good starting place for 90% of the employee population is an adjustable Ergonomic chair and quality adjustable keyboard – but REMEMBER – the workstation MUST be designed with the employee’s idiosyncratic needs in mind. As before, an Ergonomic solution. There is no one size fits all.

 Need some guidance in creating and implementing an Ergonomics program for your business?   Give us a call – 401-527-7047, or email me at cdavis@ergonomicedge.com.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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