Watson Consoles Blog

Dec 06, 2016

The Myth of the "Ergonomic Edge"

Dispatcher Ergonomic Edge

Do I need ergonomic nosing on my dispatch console?

A customer recently asked me about a blog post they read that focused on “ergonomics in the public safety dispatch center” and sited “ergonomic nosing” as an important feature for their dispatch consoles.

While I imagine the intention of the post was good, there was some misinformation about the impact of furniture nosing, or edging, and its relative importance to ergonomics. The post contends that a hard, rounded front edge on your office desk or console will damage your wrists and forearms. The author's proposed solution was “ergonomic nosing,” which is also known as a “waterfall edge”. 

Truth be told, “ergonomic nosing” is not an ergonomic feature at all. To understand this, let’s examine the correct ergonomic posture recommended while sitting, typing and writing at your console.

Your console furniture edge isn’t part of the ergonomics equation.

Princeton University Health Services writes – 

“While you’re typing, your wrists should not be resting, but held up in line with the backs of your hands. This reduces strain to your wrist that may result from holding it at an unnatural angle, and allows you to move your arms to reach the keys, rather than stretching your fingers to reach them. Use a foam pad or towel in front of your keyboard to rest your wrists and forearms while you’re not typing….”

Mayo Clinic writes –

“Place your mouse within easy reach and on the same surface as your keyboard. While typing or using your mouse, keep your wrists straight, your upper arms close to your body, and your hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows….”

Both Princeton University Health Services and the Mayo Clinic agree that the key to promoting healthy blood flow and muscle use in the wrists and hands requires the wrists be elevated away from the edge of the work surface. Figure 1 and 2 below clearly show that if you are sitting at an office desk or console in an ergonomic fashion, your forearms and wrists will not come in contact with the, poorly named, “ergonomic nosing.”

wrists.jpg

The ANSI/HFES 100-2007 guidelines further reinforce that the edge should be slightly radiused and low-profile so as not to interfere with the user: “…surface edges and corners that come into contact with the user during normal operation should have a radius of at least 2 mm (0.078 in.).”

Dispatch consoles with bulky edges do more harm than good.

The soft urethane edges pitched as “ergonomic” may, in fact, do more harm than good. They create a false sense of comfort for users and promote poor wrist and arm posture. The soft edges are also less durable over time. Anyone who has worked in the Public Safety environment has seen examples of this on items made of similar materials including the often marred arms on task chairs. These soft urethane materials don’t hold up in active 24/7 environments. When companies offer the soft edge, they are often “replaceable” which is sold as a feature. However, given the lack of durability, you’ll likely have to place it at an additional cost which offers no value at all. 

Furniture that supports healthy ergonomics is important in communication centers. In this case, a soft and rounded edge on your console has no impact on promoting healthy ergonomics during shift work. And that type of edge is more likely to degrade over time.

With the right information and some attention to how you are positioned at your dispatch console, you can enjoy years of healthy living as a telecommunicator. And remember, while misinformation is out there, some critical questions can expose the truth. Outcomes from studies in the fields of ergonomics and anthropometrics will give you guidance for promoting healthful posture. 

PSAP Whitepaper: Human Factors & Movement in the 911 Dispatch Environment


 

If you are interested in additional resources for easy-to-apply healthy workplace posture, contact your local Watson Representative.

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