The Economics of Ergonomics in Construction
Ergonomics, it’s a word that seems to be thrown around and associated with everything from chairs and desks to hand tools and power tools. But, what does it really mean and are all ergonomically designed items created the same? Recently I had the opportunity to talk with tried and true ergonomists who work for Milwaukee power tools. See the videos below.
Even after seeing the phrase used on many tools over the past 10 years, it was the first time it made sense to me why a tool needs to be ergonomically designed. Many times ergonomics is oversimplified in the industry. From my experience, it has always been relayed as this tool has an ergonomic grip, it feels good in your hand. But as we learned, it is so much more than a good feeling grip.
It takes into account the entire relationship of how the human body interacts not only with the tool but how it and the tool interacts with the task at hand. When an item is truly designed to be ergonomically beneficial, you instantly feel the benefits. It relieves the strain you feel holding the tool. It takes less effort to use and at the end of the day you feel you could work another 8 hours. It should allow these activities performed to be at the midpoint of your joints range. In fact, if you have to use your muscles it should trigger the largest appropriate muscle group and not be isolated to one muscle. Now what does this mean?
It means to truly benefit a person using a tool, the tool has to be a natural extension to the person using it. It works with the person. Not against them. It allows the worker to have multiple natural healthy and safe postures permitted to them during their work. Now more than ever manufacturers of power tools are taking this idea of melding the body and tool together more seriously and this thought is making better tools. These tools come with a higher price tag, but is it truly worth the extra dough? If you take the going rate for medical insurance and medical procedures to correct repetitive stress injuries it all starts to add up.
If you are the owner of a construction business the cost of good tools and proper education of employees is minimal when compared with the rising cost of supplying health benefits for employees, especially when more and more employees are having injuries and using the benefits. Then you have the down time for healing which halts production or means you have to bring on more help to finish a project. Coupled with the fact that even after a worker returns they are not going to be a hundred percent and could have recurring problems with these types of injuries.
If you’re a worker, the need to stay healthy is worth far more, with out of pocket expenses after insurance, down time away from work and a lifetime of recurring repetitive stress injuries to backs, wrists, knees and arms that can greatly limit your career as well as limit your quality of life the need to have beneficial tools and training is a must.
In truth having the most well designed tool will do little for you if you aren’t using it correctly. In learning better techniques we can stop fighting the design of these tools and allow them to be the benefit they are. Click here for some resources on how to be more ergonomically sound on the construction site.