Why You Need Workplace Ergonomics
The science of ergonomics is used to reduce musculoskeletal injury (MSI) in the workplace. This type of injury can occur when the physical requirements of a job exceed the worker’s capabilities. The reason why you need workplace ergonomics doesn’t necessarily revolve around comfort. Implementing the use of ergonomics can also improve the safety and productivity of workers.
Musculoskeletal injuries are a range of disorders or injuries that involve the muscles, tendons, joints, and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. These injuries can worsen due to work-related tasks but can be greatly reduced when ergonomics are applied.
The demands of a job can cause physical risk factors which in turn can cause an MSI. With each one, it’s important to consider the length of exposure, occurrence, and degree. The risks include:
- Force – applying force on an object as part of a job
- Repetition – utilizing the same muscles repeatedly for a task with little to no time for resting or recovering
- Work Posture – the position that is significantly different from the neutral range of motion, also known as awkward posture; or a long-held position even when exerting effort, also known as static posture.
- Local contact stress – a hard or sharp object coming in contact with the skin.
How to Reduce the Risks
As an employer, you must perform a risk assessment in the workplace to know if there are any risk factors that contribute to the occurrence of MSIs among your workers. Once the risk assessment is done, it’s time to take measures in eliminating or at least reducing the risks and educating the workers.
Physical alterations to the facility, machinery, and operation can lessen the risk factors for MSIs. Sample questions you can consider include:
- Can mechanical lifting aids such as pulleys, conveyors, or pallet jacks, be used in replacement of manual handling?
- Can the vertical distance be made shorter by limiting shelf height or raising the worker?
- Can the work space be arranged to avoid stooped or twisted positions?
- Can the workflow be arranged in a way that shortens the carrying distance?
Changing policies and providing awareness tools, education, and proper training are all part of the administrative controls. Questions to consider include:
- Can rotation among workers be done so that tasks involving different muscles are distributed?
- Are safe work procedures constantly used by workers to reduce the risk factors?
- Are workers being trained to do tasks using neutral postures?
- Can the pace of work be balanced to the demands more efficiently?
Personal Protective Equipment
This control method is only used when engineering or administrative controls can’t be used. A question to consider may be something like: are workers provided with the necessary personal protective equipment that can limit the risk of MSIs?
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