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Book Excerpt: 'Sustainable Ceramics' by Robert Harrison

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The following excerpt is from the section "Ergonomics for Sustaining the Body" written by Christel Harrison, OTR/L CHT, which was included in the 2013 book  Sustainable Ceramics by Robert Harrison.

Work Station Heights

  1. For greatest comfort, work in a sitting position as much as possible. The chair seat height should allow for feet to rest on the ground creating a 90-degree angle at the hips and knees. The work surface should be at waist height (29–30 inches/73–75.5 cm from the floor), which is 1–2 inches (2.5–5 cm) below elbow height.

    a) Detailed work: Such as carving, china painting, applying decals, etc. it is recommended that the item be raised on a pedestal or banding wheel to decrease eye strain and once again avoid a hunched, shoulder posture.

    b) Computer use: For a computer keyboard, the work surface should be at 26–27 inches (66–68.5 cm) from the floor to allow elbows to be at a 90-degree angle and a neutral or straight wrist position. The keyboard and mouse should be positioned on the same surface, which may include a computer keyboard tray. A wrist rest is very helpful in maintain a neutral wrist position and avoiding resting your wrist on the sharp edge of a desk.

    c) Chairs: When sitting for extended periods of time the chair should fit your stature properly for maximum support and thereby decrease fatigue. A good chair should include adjustable seat height, adjustable lumbar support, and armrests are recommended for extended, repetitive activities such as using the computer.

    d) Throwing: Is typically done in a seated position and it is important to adjust the seat height so that by bending at the hips you can maintain the natural S-curve of the back and prevent low back pain.

  2. These same principles generally apply to a standing station or workbench. When standing, the work surface should be 35–36 inches (90–92.5 cm) from the floor to allow elbows to be at a 90-degree angle and close to your side.

    a) Detailed work: Raise the object to roughly chest height and arms supported on the work surface, but for extended periods of time it would be more beneficial to sit.

    b) Packing: When completing heavy work such as packing boxes, the work surface should be at hip level (30 inches (73 cm) from the floor) to avoid shoulder and back strain.

    c) Glazing: The work surface should be at waist height and glaze buckets within a 10-inch (25.5 cm) arm reach to avoid excessive twisting or reaching. Glazes should be at room temperature for ease in use as well as to prevent stiffness in the small joints of the hand.

    d) Wedging: Use a solid worktable at a height of 30 inches (73 cm). Using smaller amounts of relatively soft clay will decrease the amount of force at the wrist as well as arm fatigue.

  3. Regardless of the height of the standing station or the task being completed, it is always helpful when standing to have one leg propped on a short stool or footrest to decrease low back or hip pain. Anti-fatigue mats are also helpful to prevent slipping on a wet surface and allow for greater comfort when standing on hard surfaces like concrete for prolonged periods of time.

From Sustainable Ceramics by Robert Harrision. Copyright 2013 by Robert Harrison. Published by The American Ceramic Society. Used by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

Click to learn about Christel Harrison's upcoming education seminar Ergonomics for Ceramics Artists on March 14, 2015.

For the full article and more, check out:

Sustainable Ceramics
by Robert Harrison
144 pages, List Price $29.99.


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