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Motion Control Engineering & Manufacturing Resources

Identifying Bad Ergonomic Design in the Workplace

Identifying Bad Ergonomic Design in the Workplace

Posted by Weber Knapp on Mar 16, 2023 11:49:00 AM

bad ergo

As more companies and industries realize the benefits of implementing ergonomic equipment, more and more equipment claims to be “ergonomically” designed. And since ergonomic equipment is beneficial everywhere from the grocery store to the construction site, it’s important (and ever-more challenging to weed out the posers. 

Here are three examples of bad ergonomics in the workplace and how to identify poorly designed ergonomic equipment: 

  1. Non-adjustable work surfaces
  2. Lack of weight mitigation features
  3. Poor ergonomics training

"Bad Ergonomic Design means non-adjustable work surfaces, lack of weight mitigation, and poor ergonomics training."

Identifying Bad Ergonomic Design: 

When you think of ergonomics, chances are the first thing that pops into your head is an office or desk setting. However, offices and sales floors aren’t the only workspaces that implement ergonomic equipment, and that means they aren’t the only spaces that suffer from bad ergonomic design. Being able to identify poorly designed ergonomic products is crucial to the health and safety of workers in just about any industry.

Installing ergonomic equipment while staying away from the below examples of bad ergonomics in the workplace can save your workers unneeded strain and stress regardless of whether you’re integrating ergonomics into a hotel workstation, remote-work home office, or manufacturing plant.

Non-Adjustable Work Surfaces 

When looking to upgrade existing equipment or apply new ergonomic technology, one of the most important factors to look for is adjustability. Since no two bodies are exactly the same, your ergonomic equipment needs to be adjustable to suit any worker, regardless of height or shape. 

Bad Ergonomic Design 2

Stay away from equipment that forces the worker to adjust to it, not vice versa. Monitor mounts that don’t pivot or swing, keyboard and mouse trays that don’t provide the proper typing angles, or even non-adjustable desks can cause serious repetitive stress issues to your workforce, ultimately slowing productivity and sales down.

Bad ergonomic design impacts retail environments as well. Without adjustable monitor equipment, cashiers and customer service agents can’t achieve proper viewing and typing angles. Over several hours a day and dozens of hours per week, the little inconveniences add up to long-term health concerns.

Further Reading: Bad ergonomics doesn't discriminate. Check out these articles on other industries where good ergonomics matter more: 

Lack of Weight-Mitigation Features

While construction sites and scientific labs may be the last place that comes to mind when you think of ergonomics and ergonomic equipment, it may surprise you to know that an abundance of ergonomic equipment exists for these specialized industries. 

A major concept of ergo technology for these industries is weight mitigation. Products that feature weight-mitigating hinges allow any user, regardless of strength or size, to operate the equipment safely. 

Take an industrial-sized toolbox for example. Since toolboxes are generally produced using durable, metal components, the weight of the lid can surpass 100 or even 125 lbs. Repeatedly opening and closing the lid can result in back, arm, leg, and neck strain without proper weight-mitigating hinges. 

However, installing cheaply made, or otherwise compromised weight-mitigation hinges can have disastrous, even deadly consequences. From damage to your equipment to loss of fingers, limbs, or even life, it’s crucial to understand the ratings on your heavy-duty hinges.

Poor Ergonomics Training

Ergonomic factors exist in nearly every industry, from office-style settings to construction zones and even the grocery store. All affected employees need training on ergonomic best practices for physical tasks and how to use their equipment. Don’t assume they know!

Start by providing proper ergonomic training to your entire workforce. With basic, free courses and more advanced paid courses (like this one from OSHA), you can ensure your workers can identify the bad posture, lifting techniques, and other ergonomic activities that cause strain and injury. 

Start with these general tips: Bad Ergonomic Design 3

  • Proper lifting techniques and/or equipment use: Many jobs require employees to lift boxes up to 50 lbs. Without the proper lifting techniques, they stand to seriously injure themselves. Training employees to lift heavy objects with their legs, not their backs -- or better yet, providing them with dollies or pallet jacks -- can reduce injury.

  • Proper footwear: Some manufacturers and construction zones require steel-toed shoes, especially for stockroom workers. These shoes can be uncomfortable if worn for long periods of time. Encourage your employees to use shoe insoles or help them pay for better footwear.

  • Good posture: Encourage the correct posture when using keyboards and computers or when working at a desk or a cashier station. Sitting up straight with feet flat on the floor is a good place to start.

Staying Ahead of Bad Ergonomic Design 

In an ideal world, pieces of poorly-designed workplace furnishings would be replaced immediately after being identified. 

Unfortunately, a complete workplace-wide equipment swap-out doesn’t usually happen (can you imagine the expense?) Typically, you’ll see pieces replaced in increments. 

That said, the best way to stay ahead of having bad ergonomic design in your workplace is to never bring it in to begin with

And how do you do that? 

The easiest way is to invest in furnishings and equipment that meet standards set by both the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)  the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association (BIFMA) 

ANSI- and BIFMA-compliant pieces essentially check all the boxes for ergonomics and safety, meaning you can purchase with confidence that your equipment won’t end up costing your operation in other ways.

Identifying Bad Ergonomic Design: A Rocky (and Challenging) Road:

Identifying poor ergonomic design in working environments can be challenging unless you’re the one doing the daily work. 

Include the end-users in the process of ergonomic-ifying your workplace -- they may have ideas or concerns you hadn’t considered. Work with a manufacturer that specializes in ergonomic equipment and weight-mitigation technology to help realize your ergonomic goals. 

Questions about how to get started? Download this Manager’s Equipment Guide e-book to make sure your purchases bring ROI and safety to your workplace:

Manager's Equipment Guide

This piece was originally published in November 2021 and was recently updated to reflect industry trends.

Topics: Ergonomics, Motion Control, Push Cart, office equipment, OSHA