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Of mice and keyboards: ergonomic information online.

As librarians and library patrons find themselves spending more of their time in the library working with computers, their physical comfort when seated at the computer station becomes increasingly important. If you are seeking to improve your working environment or planning for staff or public work areas, you will need to learn about ergonomics and how you can use these principles to create comfortable working conditions. Online resources can help. Additionally, they offer the advantages of timeliness and interactivity. I spent some time looking for helpful resources on the Internet, and this month I'll share some of my finds with you.

Resources on the Web

Since I have only had access to the World Wide Web through a graphical browser for a short time, I'm still attracted to the razzle-dazzle effects of the graphics and sounds. I couldn't resist the temptation to start my search on the Web. The first site I visited was Ergoweb (see Figure), which is funded by the American Automobile Manufacturers Association. Browsing through the site led me to the Ergoweb Tool Box, which contains analytic and design tools to help managers and workers make proper ergonomic decisions for their workplace. I was especially interested in the Work Station Design Tools. These include a Detailed Checklist for Computer (VDT) Workstation Risk Analysis. There are links to further information on workstation posture and proper ergonomic design, including hardware specifications. An online index to the various checklists is offered for browsing, and keyword searching of the site is also available.

A new section on this site is the anthropometry section, which, as the introductory material explains, is the study of the range of human physical dimensions, including size, breadth, and distance between anatomical points. This information can help designers plan work environments that fit the people who work in them. Ergoweb also provides bibliographies of periodicals, books, and manuals on ergonomics, as well as the current working draft of OSHA's Proposed Ergonomics Protection Standard. All 307 pages, including tables and figures, are available and comments are invited.

Since Ergoweb made reference to OSHA and its working draft of ergonomics standards, I thought I should visit this site next. OSHA has made the draft of its ergonomics proposal available in various formats on its Web site. WordPerfect 5.1 ORASCII versions may be downloaded in self-extracting archive format, or the document may be viewed in HTML format at the site. A link to Ergoweb's online version is also provided.

Another interesting Web site dealing with ergonomics is the North Carolina Ergonomics Resource Center, which is sponsored by the North Carolina Department of Labor and North Carolina State University. Its mission statement on the Center's home page states that "By emphasizing applied research and timely delivery of programs, ERC identifies, analyzes, and corrects ergonomic deficiencies in the workplace. Its primary goal is to act as a bridge for technology transfer and information exchange between the university, state agencies, and industry." The Center publishes Ergotalk and the May 1995 issue was available online with a discussion of Cumulative Trauma Disorders and an update on the proposed OSHA standards. In addition to information about its programs, this site provides links to research, projects, and articles dealing with ergonomics.

The results of a recent study on carpal tunnel syndrome, Preventing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: the Cornell/Honeywell Study, is available on the Web through the Cornell Theory Center. The methodology of Alan Hedge, a professor of Human Factors at Cornell, and Dr. Daniel McCrobie, a corporate ergonomist at Honeywell Inc., is described, and their findings are detailed. MPEG movies are used for visualization of data accumulated over time.

Gopherin' for Info

Since not everyone has Web access, I also searched the Internet using other tools. A gopher search turned up a number of interesting entries. One that I found especially appropriate since it was specific to ergonomic issues in libraries was the Library of Congress Workplace Ergonomics Program on the LC Marvel gopher. Under this menu heading I found the LC Workplace Ergonomics Program Draft Document from May 1993, annual reports on the program from 1993 and 1994, a series of four articles on library ergonomics that appeared in the Library of Congress Gazette, and a separate article entitled "Ergonomics and VDT Use" that was prepared by the Library of Congress Collections Services VDT Ergonomics Committee. These documents provide a great deal of information for anyone concerned with ergonomics for library workers.

Searching the Archives

Since many of the repetitive stress injuries suffered by computer workers are associated with long hours of typing on a computer keyboard, information on avoiding typing injuries is important to all computer workers. An archive of information on typing injuries is available through for, including "Typing Injury FAQ: General Information" by Dan S. Wallace. This document contains general information on typing injuries, keyboard replacement products, software to monitor keyboard usage, and office furniture. Other files in this archive contain information on carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, Dvorak keyboarding, new computer mice, and bibliographies of publications dealing with repetitive stress.

The typing archive also contains back issues of a newsletter dealing with repetitive stress injuries. The RSI Network Newsletter, edited by Caroline Rose and Craig O'Donnell and compiled for people who suffer from keyboard-related injuries, was being distributed through a moderated list set for distribution only. However, there have been no new issues of the newsletter since the August 1994 issue. The list continues to accept subscriptions and provides a topic index and location information for back issues as part of a welcome message to new subscribers. I contacted Craig O'Donnell, who is also the author of Cool Mac Sounds, by e-mail, and he said he hopes to be able to continue the newsletter.

When You Have a Question

Not all the information on ergonomics is information that you have to go out and find, some information can come to you through your electronic mailbox. Internet mailing lists are great for information exchange, and since there are mailing lists on nearly every conceivable topic, it was not difficult to find some dealing with ergonomics. CSTG-L is the discussion list for the members of the Computer Systems Technical Group of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, though membership in the society is not required to belong to the list. It does not appear to be an especially active list, at least during the period of time that I subscribed, and you should note that most of the members have backgrounds in ergonomics and are contributing from that perspective.

Another list is HFS-L, the mailing list for the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Virginia Tech Chapter. This list is also not very active, but I did learn about some other interesting Internet sources of information on human factors and ergonomics.

The most active list is SOREHAND, which describes itself as a list for "discussion of carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, etc." Nearly every day when I checked my mail there were a number of messages from this list. Subscribers discuss computer hardware devices and office furniture designed for users with wrist and hand pain as well as prevention and treatment options. There was a great deal of discussion of House bill HR1834, "Safety and Health Improvement and Regulatory Reform Act of 1995," which at the time this column was being written would have reduced funding for NIOSH, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The high level of activity on this list makes it a good choice if you have questions about these health concerns.

Every time I begin my research for this column, I wonder if I will find enough online resources to write a full column on the selected topic. I've nearly always found more resources than could be covered adequately in one column, and this month's topic was no exception. As I explored the resources mentioned this month, I found that many of them had links to others. Rather than try to list all of them in this column, I decided that I would give you a good start, and then let you find and explore these additional resources on your own. While you are exploring, I'm sure you'll learn a great deal about how ergonomics can be used to improve the work environment for you, your fellow staff members, and your library's patrons. I know I did.

Janet L. Balas is Library Information Systems Specialist at Monroeville (Pennsylvania) Public Library. She can be contacted at 4121372-0500, Fax: 4121372-1168, or Internet: balasj@ clpgh.org or jbalas@telerama.lm.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: Resources Discussed:

ErgoWeb URL: http://ergoWeb.mech.utah.edu OSHA URL: http://www.osha.gov/ergo/index.html North Carolina Ergonomics Resource Center URL: http://www2/ncsu.edu/CIL/NCERC/index.html Cornell Theory Center URL: httop://www.tc.cornell.edu:80/~hedge/ Library of Congress Workplace Ergonomics Program URL: gopher://marvel.loc.gov:70/00/employee//health/ergonomics Typing Archive URL:ftp://ftp.scua.berkeley.edu/pub/typing-injury RSI Network Newsletter Mail to: Majordomo@world.std.com Subject: blank Message: Subscribe RSI CSTG-L Send mail to: LISTSERV@VTVMI.CC.VT.EDU Subject: blank Message: Subscribe CSTG-L first name last name HFS-L Send mail to: LISTSERV@LISTSERV.VT.EDU Subject: blank Message: Subscribe HFS-L first name last name SOREHAND Send mail to: LISTSERV@ITSSRV1.UCSF.EDU Subject: blank Message: Subscribe SOREHAND first name last name
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Author:Balas, Janet
Publication:Computers in Libraries
Date:Sep 1, 1995
Words:1556
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