Innovative tools of the trade
By Daren Maynard
Preventing and fixing ergo issues
The human factors aspect of industrial engineering concerns itself with how people interact with technology. The proliferation of computer-based technology has led to well-documented musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)/repetitive stress injuries (RSIs) and exposure to electromagnetic radiation. Many companies produce product solutions to fix these ergonomics problems or prevent them from happening.
The Maltron Dual Hand Fully 3D Ergonomic Keyboard by PCD Maltron targets RSI sufferers. The made-to-order keyboard can come with the standard QWERTY layout or a specialized Maltron alternative. In the Maltron layout, the typing is not concentrated on the index and middle fingers like on the flat QWERTY keyboards. The keypad’s tilted 3-D shape accommodates the different finger lengths on both hands. The built-in hand rests provide support and reduce muscle tension.
In the United Kingdom, Maltron allows for trial periods with the keyboards. Rehabilitating a recovering operator includes taking time to unlearn past habits and learning how to use the new keyboard layout. Testimonials from chronic sufferers praise how the layout allows them to return to their jobs after suffering from RSI.
Maltron also provides single left- and right-hand and expanded keyboards. Although Maltron recommends the 3-D keyboard, its newest iteration, the dual hand 2-D (flat) keyboard, allows relief for RSI sufferers who cannot get used to 3-D keyboards. Once acclimated to the new keyboard, sufferers should not return to the flat QWERTY keyboard since that caused the injury in the first place.
With the rise of smartphones and the affordability of mobile voice plans, RSI associated with the neck has expanded beyond the office administrator role. The AudiOffice by Invoxia targets the iOS devices, allowing iPhone and iPad users to convert their devices into a speaker phone and a hand-set phone.
It provides four enhanced speakers that simulate surround sound for all iOS devices and PCs via a 3.5mm audio-in jack. The user can connect the devices using Bluetooth or USB.
People can converse with each other using AudiOffice as a speaker phone. With Skype and FaceTime, the conversation turns into a video conference. A corded handset is available for privacy and for those who like the feel of a traditional phone, but the speakerphone capabilities mean users do not have to place the phone between their shoulder and ear to make calls and continue to write. The speaker enhances the call quality so the listener does not have to strain to hear the conversation.
Although all emissions from the iPhone are within FCC guidelines, higher radiofrequency emissions are registered during dialing. With the AudiOffice, users can dial via the speaker, reducing exposure to these higher levels.
Daren Maynard is the program management lead for ITEM Energy Services in Trinidad and Tobago. He graduated with a M.S. (distinction) in program and project management from the University of Warwick in the United Kingdom and a B.S. (first class honors) in industrial engineering from the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago. He is a member of IIE’s Young Professionals group.