4998790662_bbfe34b514_zAre you using ergonomic keypads in your workplace? The term “ergonomics” refers to fitting a workspace to meet the unique needs of the worker. Forcing workers to operate Human Machine Interfaces (HMI) featuring hard, awkwardly shaped keys can hurt your company in more ways than just one. To learn more about the importance of using ergonomic keypads, keep reading.

Arguably, the single most important reason to use ergonomic keypads is because it reduces the risk of injury. I know what you’re probably thinking: how can workers injure themselves using a keypad? Well, it happens — and more often than you may realize. Injuries attributed to lack of ergonomics are often classified as musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). This may consist of carpal tunnel syndrome, tarsal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, tennis elbow, etc. Using keypads that lack proper ergonomics on a day-to-day basis can increase the risk of these injuries, as well as other injuries and conditions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), MSDs are responsible for roughly 70 million doctor’s visits in the United States each year, as well as 139 million total health care “encounters.” Furthermore, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there were 26,794 cases of work-related carpal tunnel syndrome that resulted in at least one day of missed work. These are are all problems that are easily prevented, however, through proper workplace ergonomics.

Elements of an Ergonomic Keypad

  • Keys should be spread far enough apart so the user doesn’t accidentally press multiple keys.
  • Keys should be naturally soft yet still firm enough to press with ease.
  • Contrasting colors should be used so workers can easily see the keys.
  • Keys should be the appropriate size — not too large, but not too small.
  • User should be able to press the key using light force. If the keys are too “stiff,” the user may be required to press down hard on them to trigger a command; thus, increasing the risk of MSDs.

Of course, ergonomics entitles more than just keypads and Human Machine Interfaces. Employers should look at the “big picture” when performing an analysis of their workplace. If workers are forced to stand on hard, concrete floors for eight or more hours a day, perhaps you can add anti-fatigue mats to their workstations. These otherwise simple mats are made of soft, absorbent rubber, which works by reducing pressure and strain on workers.