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Sherlock Holmes, the Ergonomist

Maureen-Anderson Posted by Maureen Graves Anderson, M.Sc, CPE

I don’t wear a deerstalker cap nor do I smoke a pipe. Even though I don’t look like Sherlock Holmes, I am inspired by the fictional detective when I perform ergonomic evaluations in the office setting. Let’s pretend that Sherlock Holmes is evaluating your office environment.

When Sherlock meets with people to start the ergonomic evaluation, he not only listens to their description of the problem, but looks for clues.

  • Is the telephone headset dusty? Even though the person claims they use it, Sherlock knows better.
  • Is the chair-mat worn through in one place?  This is a clue that the user sits in the chair as they roll around their work area, rather than getting up and out of their chair.
  • Are the arms on the chair dented and ripped? This may indicate the arms on the chair bang into the office desk, preventing the person from pulling in close to the desk.
  • Is the footrest out of reach of the feet? This means they are not using it.
  • Is there a coffee cup or water bottle on the desk? This means they drink plenty of fluids. It also may indicate they get up frequently to refill the cup and to go to the restrooms.
  • Is there a pair of sneakers under the desk? This is a clue that they may take a walk during breaks. This is a good sign.
  • Is their evidence that they eat lunch at their desk? This is a clue that they are spending too much time sitting at the desk looking at a monitor.
  • Is the keyboard placed on top of papers? This may mean they reach over the papers to the keyboard. Perhaps an inline document holder is necessary.
  • Are there sweaters or blankets piled on the back of the chair? Is there a fan in the work area? This may mean that there are uncomfortable temperature variations in the work environment.
  • If there are no curtains or shades, are there miscellaneous papers taped to the windows? Ah ha! Glare may be the problem.
  • Is the printer on the desk? Hmmm, another observation that the person may not get up and out of the chair often enough.

When it comes to the bodily clues, Sherlock consults with his trusty assistant Dr. Watson:

  • Discomfort on the outside of elbow? This may be due to using the mouse outside the “mouse zone”.
  • Discomfort in the neck and shoulders? Poor head posture may be the culprit. Sherlock checks to see if they have a document holder and a telephone headset. These 2 devices greatly help head posture in the office setting.
  • Discomfort between the shoulder blades? This can be a clue that there is excessive reaching during the workday. Is the keyboard and mouse close to the torso?

So Sherlock has completed the ergonomic evaluation. His keen observational skills have resulted in recommendations that will greatly improve the comfort and safety of the workstation. He puts away his magnifying glass, dons his cape coat and moves on to the next mystery! If you have an ergonomic mystery to solve, check out our e-Ergo resources within the MEMIC Safety Director.

A special nod to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s book , The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

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