Staying Safe While You Sleep: How ErgoCert Ensures Consumer Products Are Ergonomically Certified

 

We last spoke with Marco Bordignon, Technical Manager at ErgoCert, in 2019, discussing the ergonomic certification of industrial tools in the workplace. This time, we discussed the certification process applied in the conformity assessment of consumer goods—such as pillows.

Using Xsens MVN Analyze, ErgoCert works to assess the physical exertions of people as they use products, extracting biomechanical data from a realistic, user-environment that doesn’t fictionalize movements. Certifying consumer goods improves the safety of everyday items significantly, allowing consumers to make informed purchases. A poorly designed pillow or chair that isn’t ergonomically certified can disrupt users by causing injury over time.

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How does the certification of consumer goods differ from industry products?

“When we’re assessing products in the professional workplace, the validation procedure looks at the impact on the workers. However, when we validate a consumer product it’s completely different. The consumer market is much larger and more competitive than the professional one and affects more people. So we have completely different applications—one of these applications is on pillows.”

 

Why is it important to have consumer products, such as pillows, ergonomically certified?

“Everyone has seen an advert of a person sleeping on a mattress with a pillow—every brand is claiming that they can provide perfect alignment of the neck. Since there are more than big 100 manufacturers in that kind of market, we decided to prepare a specific protocol to certify these products and ensure their ergonomic safety.”

Ergocert-bed+sit

Left: pillow, right: stools and chairs

How do you assess the pillows?

“Pillows might have different heights, ranging from 8cm to 15cm, with the average being 12cm. The height of the pillow is related to the shoulder length of the user. We measure the person’s height and weight and work out the correct neck alignment with respect to standard and customer mattresses.”

“We take a sample of the different pillow sizes on offer by the company. Then we set specific limits to be clear and acceptable. The aim is to verify that at least one version of the certified pillow is suitable for the wider population. For me, two different sizes could be good, but if the company has only one size option, that version must be perfect. If they have more than one, at least one of the versions should be good for lateral and spine positioning. This is one of the applications.”

 

What other products do you certify?

“We also work on office chairs and stools. An office chair has a typical 90-degree knee angle, but a stool has a higher angle of 130. In this case, we can validate the alignment of the back with respect to different scenarios. We can apply these to this kind of protocol. If the seat positioning is fixed, users will move back in order to meet specific distances. If it’s not fixed and follows the user’s movements, back flexion will be reduced.”

“Our idea is to validate the fact that the back now has reduced exertion.”

You can also read the customer case: How Inertial Motion Capture Improves Conformity Assessment 

How do you establish benchmarks for research?

“Our certification is based on a technical specification which defines the factors that need to be checked. This includes methods, instruments and acceptability limits. The difference between an evaluation and a certification is that there’s a threshold that defines conformity.”

“If we’re asked for a certification relating to an entirely new product, we get that customer to perform a benchmark study. The same study and instrument can be applied in different ways for different products, and in particular, the different contexts for use. For instance, how does use differ between 40 minutes and 8 hours? We take our benchmarks and acceptability limits from this.”

“If it’s the first product, we research a sample of products that represent the state-of-art. Sometimes a requirement is not currently available in the market and part of our position as an accredited organization is to adapt the requirements according to the market.”

“But we also use the latest scientific analysis to improve requirements too. For example, more than 10 degrees of lateral bending of the neck is not safe for a long period of time, so this needs to be factored into our technical specification.”

 

Does ErgoCert have any upcoming news or projects?

“We’re pleased to announce that in December, we became the very first accredited certification body for ergonomics in the world.”

“We started the accreditation process to increase the validity of our certifications—if you request an accreditation, someone needs to check that all of your methods are fully compliant. This guarantees impartiality and competence. For the last few months, we have been under accreditation by Accredia, the Italian Accreditation Body, which means our certification will be valid worldwide. It was a hard process, but it‘s had positive implications for both us and the Xsens technology.”

“During the inspections, they specifically asked us how we measure movement and whether we’re sure our instrument is precise—they needed evidence. As a result, achieving this accreditation validates Xsens MVN Analyze and ErgoCert Analyzer as tools for assessing ergonomic factors too.”

 

Further Research

Now an accredited organization themselves, ErgoCert can now expand their work globally, certifying both consumer products and industrial machinery for a wider range of companies. To find out more about ErgoCert’s work with Xsens MVN Analyze click here.

 

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