In general, there are three primary types of ergonomic equipment: those designed for posture and spine health; for wrist and arm positioning, particularly where keyboards are concerned; and for the reduction of eyestrain. Many offices and companies hire ergonomics experts to help design workstations to maximize employee comfort and health, and in these cases many different types of equipment are often used together. It’s also normally possible to buy chairs, foot raisers, and other tools individually. While most of the study of ergonomics is devoted to those positioned at computer workstations, it is by no means limited to corporate offices or even computer technology. Some of the less common types of equipment deal with more specialized working environments, such as people who spend their days driving heavy machinery or who stand at checkout counters or registers.
Understanding Ergonomics Generally
In its most basic sense, ergonomics is the study of people in their work environments; as a discipline, it usually looks for ways to maximize efficiency and health. Ergonomics is an important safety concern for companies and their employees. When a workplace is not ergonomically friendly, employees can end up with injures that result in loss of work, medical costs and, in some cases, disability and workers' compensation claims. Many businesses avoid potential problems by consulting an ergonomics specialist, a contracted professional who assesses the situation, offers solutions, and recommends specialized equipment to meet the needs of those in the specific workplace.
In most cases, this sort of equipment has a couple of key goals: it is designed for maximum comfort and support while also helping to prevent injuries caused by equipment that puts one or more parts of the body in an unnatural position. Finding the right equipment may yield a better work experience, which can help to increase productivity. A wide selection of products is available, and can include anti-glare glasses, adjustable keyboards, and ergonomic chairs, among others.
Chairs and Tools Designed for Posture
Ergonomic chairs are some of the most popular products, and are usually designed to help support the back and spine during long hours in a seated position. Most traditional chairs were not designed with body mechanics in mind, so sitting for extended periods can lead to discomfort. Most ergonomic chairs are backed by research and science that ensures precise posture and support for the user. These can be very expensive though they are among the best solutions to back, neck and shoulder pain and eyestrain that results from incorrect posture.
Often times, footrests or raisers are also recommended, and are frequently used in conjunction with specialty chairs. Headrests and armrests may also be part of the equation, and specialty floor mats can be used as well.
Keyboards and Workstations
Repetitive strain most commonly occurs when a person sits in an awkward position for long period or performs repeated movements throughout a work shift. Over many months or years, this can lead to injury of the musculoskeletal system. An ergonomic keyboard tray may be helpful in preventing or easing damage to the wrists caused by repetitive typing and mousing. There are a couple of different variations; some are actually sloped or shaped keyboards designed to force the angle of the wrist and fingers, whereas others are simply holders or lifters for existing tools.
Eyestrain is another common problem affecting those who work with computers on a regular basis. The glare, often called “luminance,” coming from most monitors and screens can cause strain that leads to headaches or vision disturbances. Anti-glare glasses, which help to reduce the risks of computer vision syndrome (CVS), are among the ergonomic equipment available to relieve eyestrain. Filters or shields that fit over the screen itself are another option.
Importance of Adjustments and Regular Monitoring
When choosing ergonomic equipment for the home or office, it’s important to keep in mind that improper use of such products can lead to additional harm, rendering the equipment useless. Most companies have employee ergonomics evaluated on a somewhat regular basis, and many equipment sales professionals offer regular inspections and adjustment sessions as well, usually free of charge. Periodic adjustments may be necessary to keep the equipment at its most useful.
Ergonomic equipment can help prevent injuries, but users should remember that it is still important to take frequent stretch breaks. Experts often recommend that workers leave their stations for a few moments ever hour or two simply to stand, walk a few steps, and focus the eyes on something other than a screen.