Human Factors FAQ

  1. What is Ergonomics?
  2. How important is comfort?
  3. Why does my arm hurt?
  4. What is a Repetitive Stress Injury?
  5. How can I prevent RSI?
  6. What can I do if I get one?

FAQ Finder

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1. What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the study of the interaction of humans with the (built) environment. Also called Human Factors Engineering and, lately, concerned with the Human-Computer-Interface (HCI), Ergonomics Issues are moving to the forefront of concern as computer use escalates. Interest in the Ergononmics of Education reflects the rapidly approaching millenium and the effect of constant change on the fabric of society. Learn more by checking out the Ergonomics Issues channel.
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2. How important is comfort?
Aside from ergonomic health issues, it's of utmost importance if you are concerned about productivity. I have editors that work from their beds. As long as they aren't sleeping on the job, and their work shows otherwise, I have to assume that their productivity is directly related to their comfort. The major corporations have come to realize (slowly and painfully in the eyes of those who have come before) that comfortable working environments pay off in big dividends. (Personally, I'd trade a collating copier for a really comfortable chair and make the trip to a service bureau when I needed a booklet published. Then again, I'm at my desk a minimum of 12 hours a day.)
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3. Why does my arm hurt?
There are a lot of causes, but if you use a computer regularly, drive alot, or do any repetitive excercize such as playing a musical instrument, video games, or preparing rich French sauces with a hand wisk - SEE YOUR DOCTOR! and read the ergonomics FAQs and guides in our Ergonomics Issues section.
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4. What is a Repetitive Stress Injury?
Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI) are not new. Before office machines, accounting clerks suffered unusually severe cramping in their hands which eventually led to permanent disfigurement.

Pianists and other musicians have suffered similar ailments from hours of practicing to the extent that by the time a promising student was ready to perform, he was often already so afflicted that his professional career was over before it began.

Today, children with an aptitude for computers may never get to reach their potential because of hours of damaging keyboarding. Even video games are doing their share of damage.

Basically (unlike psoriasis or marketing) RSI, or Occupational Overuse Syndrome as it is called in Oceana, means exactly what it says. No matter what you do, if you do it too often it hurts. If you keep doing it anyway, it might not kill you, but it will hurt, it might prevent you from earning a living, and the cure is neither easy nor cheap.
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5. How can I prevent RSI?
The prevention of RSI may be simply one of finding a comfortable and efficient posture and maintaining a balance of movements while you work.
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6. What can I do if I develop a Repetitive Stress Injury?
Decisions concerning the alleviation of pain and the treatment of chronic conditions should be made with the assistance of qualified medical personnel. The possibilities of serious complications and permanent disability are too great to disregard.
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