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Workplace Ergonomics : Assessment & Training

Questions

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environment, which includes both the physical environment and workplace environment. The physical environment includes the equipment or tools an employee uses daily whereas the work environment is the overall structure of the workplace, e.g. lighting, heating, and flooring.

Ergonomics involves changing the environment to fit the requirements of the individual employee if the worker is forced to adapt to an environment that may not be suitable for the physical requirements and limitations.

What are the Types of Ergonomics?

Different types of Ergonomics are:

 

Physical ergonomics:

Deals with the body's response to physical and physiological workload, repetitive movements, and bad posture can cause strain and sprain.

 

Cognitive ergonomics:

Deals with the mental status and capacity of an employee at work. Workload affects the decision-making process of the individual increased workload can result in decreased concentration resulting in human error.

 

Organizational ergonomics:

Deals with the work environment, the work shift, supervision, teamwork and ethics, and policies.

What are the benefits of Good Ergonomics?

The benefits of a good ergonomic environment are:

 

Reduce costs

Employees performing tasks under postural stress can lead to ailments that can cost money. By utilizing good ergonomics, the company's costs can be reduced, associated with lost work time and workers' compensation can also be reduced.

 

Improves productivity

When employees are in pain, they are not able to focus on their work. A comfortable workstation, with good posture, can increase work productivity. Greater pain leads to less productivity. Properly set-up workstations create happier employees. A comfortable workplace provides good posture which in turn increases work productivity.

 

Improves quality

Bad working posture can make the worker uncomfortable. A poorly designed work environment can lead to frustration and resulting in low productivity.

 

Improve employee engagement

The employees feel comfortable, healthy, and safe when ensured a good working environment, their morale is boosted and employee engagement is increased.

 

Create a better safety culture

Having healthy employees is the most valuable asset. The above-mentioned points lead the work towards better performance from staff and help foster a safe culture.

What are the effects of Bad Ergonomics?

The symptoms that occur due to bad ergonomics cause can be confused with other problems or else might be so small that they might go unnoticed. Poor ergonomic can play a significant role in the development of several musculoskeletal disorders and other problems like:

 

Ergonomic assessments

An ergonomic assessment evaluates different kinds of stresses on the muscles, and bones to decrease the risk of workplace injuries. The assessment also includes modifications on how a job can be performed without producing stress and pain. The factors that are to be taken into consideration during an ergonomic assessment are posture, movement, temperature, and behaviors such as how often the employee stands, the posture, equipment like computers, keyboards, and machinery used, and the working environment.

Detailed ergonomic assessments help:

 

  • To provide training to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for staff.
  • To ensure employees are safe and productive at their workplace.
  •  Adjusting the work environment to suit individual employee's needs to reduce the risk of injury and lower overall health costs to the organization.
  • To reduce a worker's exposure to uncomfortable postures.
  • To reduce the risk of workplace injuries.
  •  Improves employee efficiency.
  • Helps improve employee-employer work relationships.

 

At the end of an assessment, a formal report is then provided to the employer in which all findings and recommendations are outlined.

The employees are educated to ensure that they implement correct techniques and utilize them effectively in their workstation, to improve individual postures.

How to prevent the occurrence of Ergonomic Injuries?

Few preventive measures can be taken to prevent ergonomic injuries:

  •  Warm-up or stretching exercises before activities
  • Take rest intervals.
  • Stop pain position activity.
  • Recognize early signs of inflammation and pain.

Ergonomic Training Program

The ergonomic training program is simple, practical, and cost-effective, customized to meet the needs of the workplace. The recommendations are given for injury prevention and injury management specifically tailored to the individual employee.

What are the different Ergonomic Control Methods?

  • By providing employees tailored, comfortable and suitable workstations for setting them up for more productive work.

 

Maintain body's neutral position

  • Maintain an erect posture of the neck, back, and shoulders
  • Keep under arms close to the body, elbows at 90 to 100 degrees
  • Keep feet flat resting on the floor, upper body weight resting completely e.g on a  footrest.
  • Wrist in neutral position i.e. 15 degrees.

 

Physical Ergonomic

Reaching above the head/shoulders

  • Do not work with the hands above head for more than 2 hrs per day.
  • Do not work with the elbows above shoulders for more than 2 hours per day.
  • Do not reach for above the head for more than 2 hrs. per day
  • Keep items within close reach.
  • Elevate work areas.
  • Remove obstacles.
  • Utilize equipment to raise and lower items or move items closer while working.

 

Awkward body posture

  • Avoid working with the neck back bent forward more than 30o for more than 2 hrs per day.
  • Squatting for more than 2 hrs.per day.
  • Kneeling for more than 2 hrs per day.
  • Raise or tilt during work for better access.
  • Use tools with longer handles.
  • Alternate between bending, kneeling, sitting, and squatting.

 

Awkward grips

  • Avoid hand-carrying and reduce the number of items carried at one time.
  • Use non-pinch grip postures.
  • Use ergonomically designed tools/equipments.
  • Use task rotations.

 

Repetitive motions

  • Do not repeat the same motion for more than 2 hours per day with hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, or neck.
  • Arrange work to avoid unnecessary movement.
  • Avoid doing repetitive work in one turn instead take intervals.
  • Do stretching exercises.
  • Change hands or motions frequently.

 

Localized pressure on the body part

  • Do not press the body part against the hard or sharp edges.
  • Do not stand/ kneel for prolonged periods on hard surfaces.
  • Avoid using tools with hard handle surfaces or short handle
  • Avoid using hands/knees as a hammer for more than 2 hours per day.
  • Use tools with longer handles and padded grips.
  • Use padded table edges or use tables/ desktops with rounded edges.
  • Use wrist rests, anti-fatigue mats, knee pads, shoe inserts, or other items that reduce stress on body parts.

 

Lifting objects

  • Avoid lifting more than 75lbs once/day.
  • Avoid 55 lbs ten times/day.
  • Avoid 10 lbs more than twice / minute or for more than 2 hours/day.
  • Avoid heavy, frequent, and awkward lifting.
  • Plan the lifts and minimize lifting distances.
  • Avoid manually lifting/lowering loads to /from the floor.
  • Identify/reduce unstable or heavy loads.
  • Reduce the duration and frequency of lifting tasks.
  • Use proper lifting techniques.

 

Modify tasks

  • Avoid prolonged and repetitive grip activities.
  • Avoid pinching, wrist in flexion, and wrist deviation.
  • Hold heavy-weight objects close to the body, legs to push up, lift the load, and avoid twisting.
  • Take breaks.
  • Get assistance when necessary.

Who can be benefited from Ergonomic Training?

Depending on the type of work, the risk factors also differ. Workers, supervisors, engineers, managers, administrators, helpers, etc, can benefit from the ergonomic training program. For example, an office worker's fingers, wrists, and arms can be affected by the bad placement of the mouse, keyboard, and chair. Whereas a factory worker may be vulnerable to back and neck injuries due to twisting at the waist and lifting heavy objects.