Health Care and Manufacturing

Furniture manufacturers stretch ergonomic standards for office workers

April 10, 2013
| By Pete Daly |
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Furniture manufacturers stretch ergonomic standards for office workers
JUNCTION, a multi-purpose table system designed for meeting and training, by The Global Group, which is represented on the BIFMA Ergonomics Subcommittee by Chair Lucy Hart. Photo via fb.com

BIFMA, the office furniture manufacturers association, has just updated its Ergonomics Guideline to reflect the increasing size and weight of North American office workers.

The updated standards used by the manufacturers, BIFMA G1-2013, will result in some wider office chairs and increased height clearance for legs and knees, among other dimensions. The larger sizes are based on “new civilian anthropometric data,” according to BIFMA.

“Proper application of the BIFMA Ergonomics Guideline will enhance the performance and comfort of computer users,” said David Panning, BIFMA’s technical director. “The more intensive the computer usage, the more important adherence to the Ergonomic Guideline becomes.”

The guidelines were last updated in 2009, and in 2002 prior to that.

BIFMA also has been working on a Heavy Occupant Chair Standard, with office seating being tested for safety and comfort when used by individuals weighing from 253 to 400 pounds. The 95th male percentile for weight is set at 253 pounds maximum.

“Our customers, and therefore our industry, face constant change in today’s workplaces including new technologies, new ways of working, and an increasingly diverse workforce. As a result, more employers are pursuing ergonomically sound office environments as a means to improving health, safety and productivity,” said Lucy Hart, a certified ergonomist with The Global Group in Toronto, and chair of the BIFMA Ergonomics Subcommittee. “Up-to-date standards and guidelines are vital resources that guide our industry and our customers on this journey.”

The Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association is headquartered on Front Avenue in northwest Grand Rapids. Since 1973, it has sponsored development of furniture specification standards, as well as serving as an advocate on behalf of the manufacturers, and the monitor of the state of the industry.

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