Lovely chair that helps greatly but is only part of the solution

Figure 4A diagram of  safe posture at modern workstations has become iconic but it has also become a symbol of ergonomic misunderstanding.  There are assumptions behind the angular figure about the way modern workers work, the equipment used and the tasks undertaken.

Too often images, such as the one included here, are taken out of context.  The image is used as a shortcut to what is considered the “correct” way to sit.  The context, the risk assessments, the tasks undertaken, the location of the workstation – basically all of the OHS information included in the workplace safety guides is ignored.  People think “the picture has a tick of approval, so why read when the picture says enough”?

This week Steelcase, a one hundred year old company that originally constructed waste paper baskets, launched its Gesture chair.  The marketing of this chair is based on the discovery (?) of nine new postures in the workplace:

Continue reading “Lovely chair that helps greatly but is only part of the solution”

Workplace safety apps reviewed

Workplace safety apps are a fairly new addition to smart technologies and they are of variable quality and application.  Below is a quick review of some.


One of the earliest OHS-related apps and most basic was Derek Viner‘s  Safety101.  This is essentially nothing more than a glossary of risk and safety terminology.  It has not been updated since April 2010.  The potential of this app beyond student use would be as a base for further construction of a safety-wiki or some other contemporary safety product.  The app has several spelling mistakes, needs refreshing as it is showing its age and needs to do so much more so as it is not just an off-Wikipedia curiousity.  The content needs to be given to an app-developer to create a more commercial and useful product.

Luxmeter & Luxmeter Pro

Luxmeter is curious app that uses the iPad camera to determine lighting levels.  It does not claim to be an official, technical, calibrated light meter but does provide a guide to the lux levels in a range of domestic situations. Should these readings be relied on?  Absolutely not.

Luxmeter Pro2 provides a more useful tool as it allows for calibration and more measurement options but as there is no help screen or manual, it is next to useless for the average user.


There are a couple of news aggregators that focus on workplace safety topics such as OH&S (developed by Smart Media Innovations) and Safety News (developed by Safety Culture).   Give them a miss and learn how to customise more effective readers and ones that show more respect for copyright.   Continue reading “Workplace safety apps reviewed”

OHS app is attractive but may be no better than a paper system

Over the last few months I have been using my iPad to take photographs of good and bad workplace practices.  These photos are usually shown to a site or business manager after a visit so that control measures can be identified.  The advantage of an iPad is that no one has to squint at a small screen to try to see the hazard.  I have kept my eyes open for potentially useful OHS apps for the iPad.  One app recommended to me is iJSA.

iJSA, designed for the iPhone initially, is packed with features that could assist the tech-savvy OHS professional in developing Job Safety Analyses (JSA) (Job Hazard Analysis in the United States).  However any app must prove to be better, more convenient and more effective than existing measures and I am not sure that iJSA does this. Continue reading “OHS app is attractive but may be no better than a paper system”

LiquidKeyboard may have substantial ergonomic benefits

As an iPad user for well over 6 months, the iPad is a terrific device for reading but it is not the best for writing.  This may be due to having typed since the age of 14 on everything from a solid old Remington typewriter to an IBM golf ball electric typewriter and various keyboards over the decades.  Typing on glass is possible but the limited keyboard size on the iPad is a struggle.  But that struggle may be replaced by an even greater challenge.

The iPad, and many other devices, are bound by a QWERTY keyboard.  Others have argued that the QWERTY layout is outdated but it is possible to produce a presentable email holding an iPad in one hand and typing with the other.  It is likely that , over a short period of time, the shortcomings of that arrangement will create ergonomic problems.

Researchers at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) have not introduced an alternative to the QWERTY keyboard but rather tweaked it into a new layout.  LiquidKeyboard is the system and, in short

  • “A new keyboard that makes it easier to type on touch screen devices has been invented
  • LiquidKeyboard enables people to use both hands in typing in the traditional way
  • As soon as your first four fingers touch the surface – in one fluid motion – an entire keyboard is constructed using the QWERTY format”

As with many innovations, productivity is the main motivation or it may be that productivity is the language needed to gain broad media attention but the potential ergonomic benefits are just as interesting.   If ergonomics is “the science of designing the workplace environment to fit the user” then the ergonomic benefits of LiquidKeyboard are self-evident.  Just because the  use of  a virtual keyboard has not identified any hazards yet does not mean that research into alternative, more ergonomic methods is not warranted.  The forethought of Christian Sax and other researchers is to be applauded.

Kevin Jones

Foxconn worker dies of exhaustion – focus on working hours

On 27 May 2010, a worker at the Foxconn factory in died from overwork, according to a statement released on 4 June 2010 by SACOM.  This coincides with a statement by Hon Hai Precision Industry on 6 June 2002, Hon Hai owns the Foxconn facility in Shenzhen.

The SACOM statement reports:

“Yan Li, 27, is the latest victim of Foxconn, the manufacturer of iPads and other high-tech items that has experienced a recent rash of worker suicides.  He collapsed and died from exhaustion on 27 May after having worked continuously for 34 hours.  His wife said Yan had been on the night shift for a month and in that time had worked overtime every night…”

There is clearly something structurally wrong with the working hours basis of the Foxconn factory.  Foxconn is a contractor or supplier of high-tech devices to major Western corporations who claim to have stringent oversight regimes.

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) (not available online except for iPad users)  reports the 4 June Hon Hai statement in which wage increases are announced with the intention of improving worker health or, in Western terms, work-life balance.   Continue reading “Foxconn worker dies of exhaustion – focus on working hours”

Suicides in China – is this a Foxconn problem or an Apple problem?

Foxconn, a large technology manufacturer in China has a cluster of suicides.  This issue is getting more attention than normal in Western media because the company manufactures products for Apple and the Apple iPad went on sale around the world at the same time news about the suicides broke.

The question that must be asked is “is this a Foxconn problem or an Apple problem?” Continue reading “Suicides in China – is this a Foxconn problem or an Apple problem?”

If laptop design is hazardous, what does this say about the iPad?

Recently SafetyAtWorkBlog received some promotional material from a laptop accessory supplier, ErgoAustralia, which stated that  laptops may be “the RSI of this decade especially for the growing bones and muscles of our children”.  The aim of the information was to show how accessories can reduce the risk of using laptop computers.

There is no doubt that this is so.  This blog is often written in a cafe through a fold away keyboard and back at the office, the laptop sits on a stand with a wireless keyboard and mouse but the laptop is not the principal PC on which work is performed.  That is a desktop PC.

When laptops are the only computer option and the work tasks rely on laptops, the complications and hazards occur.

Rick Clancy of ErgoAustralia provided the following quotes in support of the dangers of laptops:

Alan Hedge from Cornell University says the following “Guidelines for laptop use are more difficult because laptop design inherently is problematic – Continue reading “If laptop design is hazardous, what does this say about the iPad?”

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