Posture Myths and Holistic Ergonomics

Myths are easily maintained when accompanied by symbols. The merging of symbol and myth creates a new truth, symbolic truth. Such truth is not real or true, but is made symbolically true.

We see this all the time in the safety industry with simple constructs like the Swiss Cheese (Reason) or domino theory (Heinrich). Neither are real or true but are made symbolically/mythically true to maintain the myth of linear causality. There is no linear causality.

Safety maintains many of its symbolic myths due to an ignorance of semiotics. There is no study of semiotics globally in any safety qualification.

Recent research shows that safety myths associated with posture are not true.

Yet, you will find this mythology in any ergonomics or safety text. ‘Officewise, A Guide to Health and Safety in the Office’ by Worksafe Victoria is a good example.

When a myth is accompanied by graphics of people in so called ‘right posture’ it seems like a truth is being stated, regardless of the fact that it has no empirical or research support.

Typically, in such texts we see graphics as in Figure One. Right Posture.

Figure One. Right Posture


The reality is, most of these semiotics have more in common with old behaviourist folk lore.

Most traditional Ergonomics texts are full of this stuff without any regard for Holistic Ergonomics, human phenomenology or the neurocognitive nature of affordances. For more read anything by Damasio, Johnson, Fuchs or Lakoff. Similarly, the brain-centrism and behaviourism of these texts is never questioned. Such is the myth of compliance and the sin of critical thinking in safety.

Typically, texts like ‘Fitting the task to the Human, A Textbook of Occupational Ergonomics’ is completely silent on anything to do with Socialitie, embodiment, motor sensate being, affordance or the many realities of cognitive neuro-scientific research.

The mechanistic and behaviourist assumptions of such texts are served by self-endorsed arguments that imagine humans as machines. Most of the time the opposite is the case, the real agenda is fitting the human to the task!

We learn in this latest research by O’Sullivan, Straker and Saracen that good posture doesn’t prevent back pain neither does bad posture cause back pain.

What the research shows is that many social psychological and holistic factors are critical to the prevention or development of back pain and other musculoskeletal problems.

How strange that such things as: diet, exercise, mindset, social engagement, good sleep, meaning and purpose are more essential to the prevention of back pain. Such is the mythology of safety.

We discuss safety myths about ergonomics and much more in our module on Holistic Ergonomics  soon to be presented in Workshops in Perth on 3-7 October (

The same week in Perth offers the outstanding workshop on Due Diligence with Greg Smith and Dr Long presenting together. This powerful workshop also blows away the many safety myths about the law that plague the safety industry. You can see Dr Long and Greg Smith in action here:

Now with over 100,000 downloads this powerful series and free book download ( really empowers people to better understand the realities of the courts and how safety regulations should be legally understood, well beyond all safety mythology. You can also purchase Greg Smith’s best seller Papersafe here:

Holistic Ergonomics and the Due Diligence modules reject the behaviourist notion that humans are like machines, the brain is a computer that guides the machine and that the courts exercise justice. Such assumptions are completely erroneous and direct the industry away from helping persons better manage risk.

Holistic Ergonomics and Due Diligence consider the whole person in understanding risk.

12. HIGH-VIS from Human Dymensions on Vimeo.

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