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Ergonomics in the Home: Applying Work Safety Principles to Your Life Outside the Office

Monday, May 10, 2010
By Anne Kramer

You spend a lot of time in the office, it’s true. Ergonomic safety should be of top priority in the workplace. But when was the last time you considered your ergonomic health where you spend the other major portion of your daily life, that is, in your home? It may come as a surprise to you, but many ailments spurred by the neglect of ergonomics are fostered in the home. What follows here is a short survey of common ergonomic shortcomings of a few spaces we occupy most every day and don’t think about our ergonomic well-being.

  • The Kitchen: Most Americans cook at least one meal per day at home. The preparation and consumption of that meal is meant to benefit the individual, not harm him. That is why it is so important to make sure the time spent in the kitchen is ergonomically safe. There exist now designs of common kitchen tools such as kitchen knives, scales, ice cream scoops, and floor mops the design of each taking into consideration the user interface. Try incorporating some of these products to make your kitchen experience a healthier one.
  • The Garden: What exists as a relaxation hobby for most is actually an activity which puts incredible strain on the body. It generally involves bending over or kneeling for long periods of time and using tools which, when used on the hard earth put great pressure on the hands and wrists. Gardening doesn’t have to be this way.
    First off, it is generally inadvisable to bend over for long periods of time. If possible, wear kneepads and try kneeling to do work at lower levels. Regardless of whether you bend or kneel, remember to take breaks. Try working for short periods of time, and then taking equally-long breaks wherein you sit or walk around. Second, as in the kitchen, there are tool alternatives which alleviate pressure points while gardening. Search out tools such as spades and pruners advertised to have “natural” or “pistol” grips. These make gardening a much sounder activity, ergonomically speaking.
  • Family Room: It is important to be comfortable and able to relax in your home. It is equally as important to be able to do this safely. Unfortunately however, what “feels good” when relaxing might not always be the safest option. Many couches, for example, promote incorrect sitting positions which, when assumed for extended periods of time, can cause injury. Like in the office, it is important to make sure your sitting furniture provides the type of support your back needs. For more information, see our article on the benefits of proper posture.
  • Bedroom: In order to get the best night’s sleep, it is imperative to have an ergonomically designed bedroom. The focus of which should be the bed itself. There are any number of beds on the market designed to give you “the best night’s sleep,” but make sure when selecting a mattress that it is not just comfort you’re after, but an ergonomic sleep position as well. In addition to an ergonomically designed mattress, you should consider other ways to optimize your sleep position such as an ergonomic pillow and a leg spacer. Each of these types of pillow are designed to put and keep your spine in alignment throughout the night, which reduces injury and “tossing and turning,” making sure you wake up as refreshed as possible.

The American focus on ergonomics may have begun in the workplace, but it ought not to stop there. Do you and your family a service and consider the ergonomic efficiency of your home as well.

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