Is It Ergonomic?

What makes a product ergonomic? Is there even a concrete answer to this? If you walk into a department store, it may become abundantly clear that many manufacturers slap an ‘ergonomic’ label on their product and we, as the general public, buy into it. Ergonomic chairs. Ergonomic mop handles. Ergonomic pillows. We believe that these “ergonomic” products are instantly going to rid of us our discomfort, when really all the manufacturer did is add a little bit of cushioning around the handle.

So how do we determine what is truly ergonomic? Ergonomics examines the interaction between humans and their environment, and specifically, the different elements within it (e.g. tools, equipment, etc.). For the most part, there may not be a ‘one-size fits all’ answer regarding ergonomics. Proper ergonomic design of a product goes beyond simply adding that cushioned handle, which manufacturers often fail to recognize. To be ergonomic, designers and manufacturers (and consumers) must consider and account for two definitive things:

  1. Human anthropometrics, workstation design, and the specific usage of this particular product
  2. Does the product help to minimize hazards including force, repetition, awkward postures, and/or static postures?

It’s difficult to provide a definitive understanding of whether a product is or is not ergonomic, but at least with these few guidelines, we can attempt to be more astute and educated consumers.

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