Understanding the Basics of Ergonomic Safety – Part 1

Nowadays, we hear a lot about ergonomics. What exactly is ergonomics and how does it impact the workplace?

The word ergonomics is derived from Greek and literally means “the science of work.” Ergonomics is defined as the customization of products, tasks, and the environment for the worker, resulting in an increase of quality, productivity and safety in the workplace.

Musculoskeletal Disorders

One of the chief consequences of poor ergonomics in the workplace is susceptibility to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are characterized by pain, tingling, numbness, stiffness or inflammation of muscles, joints, tendons or ligaments in various parts of the body.

The financial impact of MSDs is staggering. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains that approximately 650,000 work-related MSDs generate costs of over $20 billion per year. In fact, $1 in every $3 of Worker Compensation payments is caused by MSDs. This figure does not include indirect costs of $150 billion per year shelled out for expenses such as staff replacement and retraining, loss of quality and productivity, and absenteeism.

Employers would do well to invest time, effort and capital into effective ergonomics practices for their workplace, preventing musculoskeletal disorders and saving money and unnecessary hassle in the long run.

Getting Started

Employers can begin implementing good ergonomics practices by surveying the workplace, encouraging employee feedback, applying preventive measures and addressing problems promptly.

Ergonomics principles have a wide range of applications. Let’s examine several key areas that can be improved greatly by applying some quick and easy changes.

Body Mechanics

Teach your employees the following helpful suggestions, which are easy to implement and can go a long way in preventing musculoskeletal disorders:

  • Lift objects with two hands rather than one
  • Push and pull or slide objects instead of lifting them
  • Carry objects at waist-level and close to the body
  • Try to minimize reaching
  • Use the largest muscles and joints to execute tasks

Stretching is a great way to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Relax your muscles, stretch and switch positions. Taking regular rest breaks will help ease eye strain, muscle aches and stress. Don’t forget to turn your eyes away from the screen occasionally and focus on a faraway object.

Repetition

One of the major causes of MSDs is repetitive movements over a significant time span. To reduce repetitive movements, alternate tasks and activities to ensure use of various muscle groups. Take short, frequent breaks and eliminate needless movements and tasks by redesigning workstations and procedures.

Stay tuned for our next post and learn how to apply ergonomics principles to create an optimal office workstation.