Mind Mapping & Creative Thinking

November 27, 2007

Ergonomics & Anthropomentrics

Filed under: Design Technology — Editor @ 9:05 pm



Ergonomics and Anthropometrics

Make sure you know the difference. If you see one mentioned in an exam the other with be lurking somewhere to see if you know what you are talking about!

Ergonomics: Making the object/product fit for the user by studying the way the user behaves. For example a workstation needs to position the screen, keyboard, mouse and CPU in the right places for the user. A taller person will require a different set up than a shorter person; a child will require a different set up than an IT professional who is using the workstation all day.

Anthropometrics: This is the measurements of the body (data usually stored in tables or spreadsheets).  The workstation needs to be the correct dimensions to suit the range of users who it is imagined or identified will use the product. The workstation will also need to be able to hold the computer components in the right places and securely.

Products which are ‘good designs’ usually have considered the user very carefully. Try and identify products that you use or have that are ‘good’ products and those which are difficult to use. (notice I have said ‘bad design’, I do not believe that anyone sits down and says to themselves ‘ok today I will design something bad, a real bad design’. I think that poor designs occur because the designer did not consider all the factors or have all the information available that they might need to be aware of.

This is a useful site for looking at the problems of workstations: http://www.hazards.org/workstations/index.htm 

Computer workstations checklist checklist

There are thousands of computer workstation safety checklists. Three recent offerings from official safety bodies in Britain, the US and Sweden should be the last word, but they show significant flaws and differences.

The checklist from the US safety watchdog OSHA is the most extensive and covers most of the key problems.

The checklist from Swedish union/management safety body Prevent is good and concise but suffers from poor translation.

From the UK, HSE’s checklist is attractively produced but full of holes.

Key points from the checklists:

Postures A bolt-upright posture is unsuitable for long periods of work and for all people; postures that work for occasional keying, for example with the keyboard set back on the desk, cause problems when used for intensive keyboard work.

Wrist rests The OSHA guidance says these can hold the wrist and forearm in awkward postures.

Desk adjustment Fully adjustable desk height, eg. for standing or sitting use, is becoming common in Scandinavia but doesn’t get a mention in HSE’s checklist.

Mice Mouse use gets the full treatment in the OSHA document and there is recognition in HSE’s checklist that forearm support is essential – some of the OSHA recommendations could cause problems.

Keypads Numerical keypads are causing problems for which there are currently no solutions.

Phones Telephone use is factored into the OSHA guidance.

There is no best buy. Spend some time looking at all of these, and don’t treat HSE’s as a standard. Both the Swedish checklist – in spite of the translation – and the OSHA list make crucial points that the HSE checklist misses.

My computer, my way is another online guide that will help you make your PC more accessible. Easy to use sections give help on: Seeing your screen; using your keyboard and mouse, and help with language and reading. See the references at the end of the linked document.


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