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article imageErgonomically intuitive software reduces office desk injuries

By Tim Sandle     Jul 10, 2017 in Business
Austin - At work injuries can occur in unexpected ways. As well as ‘hard’ health and safety concerns, like going up a ladder, injuries can occur from adopting a poor posture at a desk. Part of this can arise from the types of software that people are using.
To assist in the process of conducting ergonomic reviews for desk-based employees, Texas A&M University have been developing software that will help employers to realize a safer workplace. This is with the understanding that poorly designed software contributes to employee injuries at the workplace, based on the types of hand and wrist movements and the number of repetitive actions required to use certain types of software. Poor software can lead to those who are mainly desk-bound to develop debilitating hand and wrist problems.
Central to the research is the development of a so-termed "Self-Report Ergonomic Assessment Tool” (or SEAT), which enables users to determine how much stress different computer programs put upon their users. This method overcomes the time and expense associated with identifying and correcting software-inducing ergonomic problems.
The developer, Paul Ritchey explains: "You can fix a bad design on a drawing board… with SEAT, you can fix software before it goes out, and there's no need to buy special equipment."
The SEAT technique examines two concepts of ergonomic risk: body stressors, such as bad posture, and the degree of strain, pain and discomfort that might come from a particular stressor.
Instead of requiring a company to hire expensive outside consultants, SEAT works on the basis of self-assessment. Here workers can self-report discomfort or strain. The information can be used to adjust current computer setups and to assess software currently in use; it can also provide information to be fed-back to software developers to improve the future design process. As an example, the developers highlight the oil and gas sector. This is because industry data suggests debilitating injuries, as the result of hand or wrist strain, are common among geoscientists.
To address these types of problems Andrew Muddimer, who is an ergonomist at the oilfield giant Schlumberger, used the SEAT approach to see if seismic graphing programs geoscientists require excessive clicking and dragging. He found out that the use of the software was problematic and that design improvements were possible. These improvement ideas were fed back to software developers. This demonstrated that the SEAT approach can help to integrate the science of ergonomics into the development lifecycle of software.
The research has been published in the journal Applied Ergonomics, with the supporting research paper headed “Assessing ergonomic risks of software: Development of the SEAT.”
More about ergonomics, Software, office work, Business, workplace injury
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