Ergonomists view people and the objects they use as one unit, and ergonomic design blends the best abilities of people and machines. Humans are not as strong as machines, nor can they calculate as quickly and accurately as computers. Unlike machines, humans need to sleep, and they are subject to illness, accidents, or making mistakes when working without adequate rest. Nevertheless, machines are also limited - cars cannot repair themselves, computers do not speak or hear as well as people do, and machines cannot adapt to unexpected situations as well as humans. An ergonomically designed system provides optimum performance because it takes advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of both its human and machine components.
Understanding human limitations early in the development of medical devices can reduce errors and avoid performance problems exacerbated by stress and fatigue. Using ergonomics in a design process may reduce the costs of procuring and maintaining products. It may also minimize the incidence of injury or longer-term malaise from poor working environments.
Many ergonomic problems associated with computer workstations occur in the shoulder, elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand. Continuous work on the computer may expose soft tissues in these areas to repetition, awkward postures, and forceful exertions, especially if the workstation is not set up properly. For example, the mouse device is present in virtually every office environment and designed specifically to the contours of either the right or left hand. Placing the mouse, trackball, or other input device too far away, too low, or too much on one side can cause shoulder, wrist, elbow, and forearm discomfort; however, they offer natural comfort and maximum hand-to-eye coordination when placed within the immediate reach zone.
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