The tools of the trade: comfort is key

From the operation of an aircraft, to the controls on a VCR or the shape of a computer mouse, industrial designers have a hand in it all.

If a tool isn’t designed properly, it can lead to frustration and injury.

Tim Moore, a Professor in Carleton’s School of Industrial Design, is working to reduce “design error,” and through the study of ergonomics is researching ways to create greater intimacy between people and machines.

Ergonomics is the study of how humans can use tools and objects with minimal risk or inconvenience.

Moore has taught ergonomics at Carleton for more than 16 years, and has consulted with numerous companies on making workplace equipment functional and safe to use. Moore says companies can waste a lot of money when they buy equipment employees do not know how to use.

“Companies buy these products with functions employees cannot master…equipment designed by engineers without any input from users is useless,” he says.

Moore says as a result, offices drain money on training programs and productivity is lost when employees physically strain themselves, trying to use workplace equipment that just doesn’t jive.

Carleton Benefits Administrator Lori East educates employees how to make the workplace more comfortable.

East has been giving ergonomic assessments for Carleton employees with medical needs for a year and half.

“It’s taking a proactive approach,” she says. “People don’t know until it’s too late, so I want to catch it at a preventative stage.”

East says she sees a lot of strain injuries like wrist, shoulder and back pain, primarily because people don’t take breaks while performing repetitive tasks.

East usually recommends ergonomic tools like keyboard trays and proper chairs, to prevent the aches and pains that come with uncomfortable office equipment, and instructs employee groups on using their workspace in the most constructive and painless ways.

Needless to say, through educating its own employees, and contributing to the industry through research and design, Carleton is helping ease the pain of the nine to five grind.

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This entry was written by Valerie Georgewill and posted in the issue. Tags applied to this article are: . Leave a comment, bookmark the permalink or share the following short URL for this article via social media:

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