Ergonomics is sometimes overlooked when thinking about potential hazards that exist in the workplace. This is because injuries caused by poor ergonomics are not as obvious as injuries caused from falls from heights or dangerous chemicals. However, ergonomics injuries can be just as detrimental to the workplace if hazards that cause them are left uncontrolled.
The ultimate goal of practicing good ergonomics in the workplace is to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, strained muscles, and ruptured discs, just to name a few. MSDs resulting from poorly designed work stations can lead to reduced productivity, missed time, loss of income, increased insurance claims, and pain and suffering that impacts both workers and their friends and families.
To reduce the risk of MSDs, practice good ergonomics in the workplace. Consider these 7 simple tips, and start practicing them today!
1. Practice Good Posture
Good posture is about more than finding a comfortable position to work in, or what “feels right.” Especially when you consider that some positions, while comfortable for the worker, may not be ergonomically correct. To complicate matters further, some shifting and movement in position throughout the day can even be useful for some workers with and without disabilities.
2. Change it Up
Repeating the same movement continuously through the day can cause strains. If it is possible to alternate tasks, it is advisable to do so. If job rotation or alternating tasks throughout the shift is unrealistic, be sure to incorporate several rest breaks. Stretch during breaks, or do simple exercises to keep your muscles and tendons from becoming tense or strained.
3. Lift with your Knees
Be sure that if your job involves lifting, that you are trained in manual material handling, and that you practice proper lifting techniques. Never lift with the muscles in your back. Lift with your knees.
4. Get a Good Chair
If you sit at desk all or most of the day, you need an ergonomic chair that has various settings for a variety of seated postures. The best chairs have adjustable height, arm rest, lumbar support, and seat pan depth settings. If your feet don’t reach the floor, a foot rest should be used in conjunction with the chair, and remember: it doesn’t matter how well the chair is adjusted if you do not sit in it properly! Standard chairs — even the best ones — may not work for workers with certain disabilities, so be sure to make accommodations for workers who require them.
5. Make your Computer Work for You
Your computer station needs to work for you. Your keyboard and mouse should be at the same level, with the weight of your arms supported by the armrests of the chair. The keyboard and mouse should also be positioned so that your wrists remain straight. If you need to look at documents as you type, ensure that you have a document holder. All other required tools, such as staplers, pens or pencils, and your phone, should be within reach. If you use the phone frequently, opt for a headset over cradling the phone between your ear and shoulder.
6. Look after your Eyes
Eye strain is common in workers with and without disabilities who spend a lot of their day looking at computer monitors. Adjust your monitor so that it is at eye level when sitting straight in your chair. Ensure that you look at it directly, and that it’s not angled. If you have a window, place the monitor at a right angle to it to reduce glare. Monitors with poor resolution or a flicker should be upgraded or replaced.
7. Chill Out
A stressful work environment can cause workers to tense their muscles, and remain in that state for extended periods of time. Workers who feel pressure to complete tasks may skip breaks or strain themselves to complete tasks faster at the expense of using proper ergonomic material handling methods. Be sure that workers are not stressing themselves in this way. Training, information, and control over the ergonomic set-up of an individual’s workstation goes a long way in reducing the stress that causes ergonomic injuries.
OSG can Help
OSG offers a course in ergonomic hazard evaluation. By the end of the course, participants are able to:
- Understand ergonomic principles and basic risk factors
- Utilize and apply the “Workplace Athletic Rules” to identify postural concerns
- Complete an audit to identify, then evaluate, potential ergonomic concerns
- Brainstorm and evaluate the effectiveness of risk mitigation/elimination solutions
- Review new designs and equipment using an “Ergo Eye”
- Apply advanced evaluation tools (RULA and Snook tables)
OSG also offers several online safety training courses that cover ergonomic hazards: