Ergonomics 101: The Science Behind the Idea

Ergonomics 101: The Science Behind the Idea


What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ergonomics? For most people, the answer is office chairs. But ergonomic office chairs are only one facet on the tip of the iceberg! Ergonomics is a science that helps align products to users and jobs to workers.

The word ergonomics comes from a combination of two Greek words: ergon, which means “work,” and nomos, which means “natural laws.” Sometimes ergonomics can be referred to as human engineering, biotechnology, or human factors.

Not only does ergonomics cover items that improve working conditions, it also includes how the products you use in your daily life are designed. But ergonomics can refer not only to the way objects are designed, but also the way they are arranged for optimum use.

Below is an overview of ergonomics, including some examples of ergonomics you may not have considered.

Office Ergonomics

A lot of early ergonomics research was directed toward industrial professions. For example, the risks of musculoskeletal disorders for someone who operates a jackhammer may be high, that doesn’t negate the risk for office workers; however, risks to office workers wasn’t immediately recognized. In more recent years, experts have learned that ergonomic products are important in all types of workplaces.

Repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome can occur when workers are improperly positioned or uncomfortable while working. Musculoskeletal problems can occur in workers in all industries, from the assembly line to the office. And the latest research demonstrates that too much sitting can be detrimental to your overall health.

Of course, ergonomic office chairs are one way to help keep employees comfortable and safe in the office. Other ergonomic office products include standing desks, keyboard trays, and anti-fatigue mats. There are even ergonomic keyboards and mice that can help better position the wrists and arms for those who use computers all day long.

undefinedBut it’s also important to take the arrangement of the workstation into consideration. To create an ergonomic workstation, the positioning of a computer monitor, mouse, and keyboard are considered. These should be placed at heights and distances that make them easy to use without having to bend, turn, stretch, or strain.

More and more companies are creating ergonomic products for the office, like electric adjustable desks and under-desk keyboard trays. These products can help you work more comfortably, which translates into working more safely. Improving your workstation’s ergonomics can help you improve your posture, which in turn helps reduce fatigue, stiffness, and soreness.

Whether you want to modernize your home office or your workplace, ergonomic products are the way to go—especially electric height adjustable computer workstations. These desks not only have the latest features, they’re ergonomically friendly and will blend perfectly with your modern design.

Ergonomics for the Work Site

One aim of ergonomics is to help reduce accidents and injuries. That’s why you see construction and factory workers wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) like hard hats, safety glasses, and back belts. Ergonomic tools for these workers are designed to reduce or prevent repetitive stress injuries, awkward gripping positions, excessive bending or stooping, exposure to excessive vibration, and more.

Ergonomic PPE protects workers from injuries and also helps make their jobs easier. For example, an ergonomic glove should fit perfectly, protect the hand, and enhance the wearer’s grip. When ergonomic equipment doesn’t fit right, it can be as dangerous as not using any protective equipment at all.

Ergonomics at Home

You’ve probably seen a zillion mattress commercials. They all talk about how their mattress supports the body while reducing pressure on various areas of the body. This is an example of ergonomics in the home: the designers of these products research how their mattress benefits a variety of sleeping positions. There are even ergonomic pillows designed for different sleep postures!

Ergonomics in the kitchen is another area where comfort and safety are important. From counter height to appliance positioning to knife grips, there are many ergonomic features in your kitchen. The three most common areas in the kitchen—the sink, refrigerator, and stove—are known as the “kitchen work triangle.” Placing these three items reasonably close together creates the ideal work site. And kitchen tools like knives, peelers, can openers, etc., should be easy to grip and comfortable to use.

Designers and architects also use ergonomics in bathroom design, especially when it comes to bathrooms for the disabled or senior citizens. An ergonomic bathroom will have plenty of room to maneuver, and may have grab bars to assist with stability while standing or sitting. Knobs for faucets and bathtubs should be easy to turn, and drawers and cabinets should be easy to open and close. Even the flooring is considered in an ergonomic bathroom: to reduce the risk of falls, the floor should not be too slippery.

Why Ergonomics Matters

undefinedIt’s easy to look at ergonomics as an expense rather than an investment. But think about it this way: many people choose a car for its safety features, believing those features are worth the cost of protecting themselves and their families. Businesses who purchase ergonomic products for their employees demonstrate their commitment to their health and well-being. More and more organizations are beginning to realize the importance of helping their people prevent injuries that can be more costly down the line, when weighed against the costs for sick time, short- or long-term disability, and insurance premiums.

One of the most important employee perks is workplace ergonomics, which fosters a safety and health culture as a core value. People recognize the value of walking into a safe workplace; with the knowledge that their employer wants to keep their team healthy, employees are likely to be happier at work. Reducing ergonomic problems leads to fewer sick days, fewer injuries, and can reduce long-term, cumulative issues that can shorten a worker’s career. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons says office workers can help prevent back pain by standing at least once every hour to move around—at least stretch, if not walk around a little.


Ergonomic products are everywhere. There are ergonomic shoes, ergonomic handbags, and even ergonomic clothing. Ergonomics are deeply taken into account with vehicle design as well. As you can see, even the items discussed here are still just scratching the surface.

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