The Invisible Hand of Ergonomics
The other day, Mark Eaton was discussing some work he was doing with the National Patient Safety Agency, introducing the idea of designing environments to be safer and more productive.
His point couldn’t be more accurate. The design of equipment, tools, and the layout of the workplace are often the difference between positive and negative work behaviors. As an employer, this is one sure way of influencing safe and effective work practices.
The key is ergonomics — Designing the workplace and equipment to best fit the capabilities of the working population.
This includes the physical dimensions (ex. grip diameter, weight, reach, height, etc.) and the cognitive design for usability (ex. intuitive understanding of controls, presentation of information, design of controls).
Jamie Mallon, a Certified Professional Ergonomist and a Vice President here at Humantech likes to explain this concept as "an invisible hand". When the workplace and equipment are designed correctly, the invisible hand guides a person toward working in a safe and efficient manner, and makes it harder to work unsafely or ineffectively.
For example, placing a box of materials on a raised platform rather than on the floor automatically eliminates the need to bend and reach each time a widget is removed from the box. This one minor alteration in the work environment eliminates repeated exposure to poor lifting conditions, wasteful motions, and the additional time to reach.
Is the Invisible Hand working for you or against you?