A Brief History: The Evolution of Ergonomics

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In the 1940s, an advancement of machinery and equipment during and post-World War II lead to a disharmony between people and the equipment they were using. There was an increased risk of human error and poor user performance. In order to avoid negative effects of human limitations, equipment had to be designed to take advantage of human capabilities consequently, establishing the scientific discipline we know today as Ergonomics. While the early focus of ergonomics was on aviation and aircraft controls, it has become a standard practice in designing computers, cars, and other consumer products.

With 33% of work-related injuries being caused by poor work station setup, occupational ergonomics is a top priority for many employers and employees. Over the years, there has been a shift in the way companies look at ergonomics. Companies were reactive when addressing proper ergonomics, oftentimes waiting to react to injuries or employee complaints, whereas today, the approach is proactive. Companies use tools, equipment, and best practices to prevent injuries and reduce the level of exposure. Companies are now encouraged to have integrated design phases, which take equipment, products, layout, and standard ergonomic guidelines into account when designing workspaces. Another shift in the discipline has been the method of assessment. Years ago, employees would attend classroom training sessions, in-person evaluations by a certified staff member, and chair-fitting rooms. Today, there is a stronger emphasis on employee-driven, in-office assessments. Chairs and workstations offer full range of adjustability, workstation design is based on computer use, and employees are able to assess and adjust their own workstations.

Here at Relax The Back, we continue to learn and improve our knowledge on ergonomics, and the tools and equipment that can be used to reduce and prevent injuries.  Read more information on ergonomics or visit your local Relax The Back store to speak with one of our trained specialists about a free workstation assessment.