The Power Of Ergonomics
The term “ergonomics” is derived from two Greek words: “ergon,” meaning work, and “nomoi,” meaning “law”. Ergonomics studies the human body’s capabilities in the workplace and searches for ways to optimize them.
Ergonomics looks at what kind of work you do, what tools you use and your individual workplace environment. The primary motive is to find the best fit between you and your job conditions.
If we follow three simple ergonomic principles while at work, we can significantly reduce our risk of injury and long-term damage to our and our colleagues’ bodies:
- All activities should allow the employees to adopt several postures that are safe and healthy.
- Where muscular force is to be exerted it should be done by the largest appropriate muscle groups available.
- Work activities should be performed with the joints at about the mid-point of their range of movement. This applies particularly to the head, trunk and upper limbs.
Here are a few examples of some ergonomic changes you can make to improve your posture and avoid injury:
- Adjust the position of your computer keyboard to prevent Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- Make sure that the height of your desk and chair allows your feet to rest flat on the floor.
- Learn the right way to lift heavy objects to prevent back injuries – bend your knees and lift, don’t bend the back.
- Use handle coatings or special gloves to absorb vibrations from power tools.
No matter what the job is, the goal is to make sure that you are safe, comfortable and not at risk of sustaining work-related injuries, particularly Musculoskeletal Disorders or MSDs. MSDs are injuries pertaining to the musculoskeletal system, i.e., the muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, blood vessels, etc.
Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their workers. In the workplace, the number and severity of MSDs resulting from physical overexertion, and their associated costs, can be substantially reduced by applying ergonomic rules and regulations. Implementing an ergonomic process is effective in reducing the risk of developing MSDs in high-risk industries such as construction, food processing, firefighting, office jobs, healthcare, transportation and warehousing.
Here are some pointers on how to optimize the workplace ergonomically:
- Management Support– A strong commitment by the management is critical to the overall success of an ergonomic process. The management should establish clear objectives for the ergonomic process, discuss them with employees, assign responsibilities and communicate clearly.
- Involve Workers Directly– A participatory ergonomic approach, where workers are directly involved in worksite assessments, solution development and implementation is the essence of a successful ergonomic process. Workers can:
- Provide Training– Training is important as it ensures that people are aware of ergonomics and its benefits and understand the importance of reporting early symptoms of injuries and MSDs.
- Identify Problems– An important step in the ergonomic process is to identify and assess ergonomic problems in the workplace early, before they result in MSDs.
- Evaluate Progress – Established evaluation and corrective procedures are essential to assess the effectiveness of the ergonomic process and to ensure its continuous improvement and success. Periodic assessments should be made to ensure that goals set for the ergonomic process are being met to evaluate the success of the implemented solutions.
Remember, any type of workplace or office can pose a threat if you’re not paying attention to yourself and your surroundings. Ergonomics is only as effective as its practice.