The science of ergonomics pulls from several different disciplines to collect information on human abilities, limitations, and characteristics relevant to designing a better workplace. Ergonomists look at anatomy and body mechanics for an understanding of how the human machine operates. Also, engineering, another principle of science ergonomics utilizes, aids in the development of new processes, tools, and workstations. Workplaces designed using ergonomic principles enhance the abilities of employees to work more productively. Unfortunately, injuries occur when the demands of the job exceed the abilities of the worker. The object of ergonomics is to prevent these injuries.
Work can be made more comfortable and safer by using ergonomics. Ergonomics focuses on how people interact with their workspace or working conditions and how to make that interaction as safe and efficient as possible for each worker. Think about tasks that are uncomfortable or difficult to perform. Try ergonomic solutions (modified work techniques, tools, or equipment) to reduce stress on your body.
Common Risks for Ergonomic Hazards
Repetition – involves doing the same task repeatedly, using the same muscles over and over.
High Force – using extra muscle power during activities such as heavy lifting, pushing items, or gripping tools.
Awkward Postures – working with your body bent, twisted, extended, or flexed rather than in a neutral position.
Contact Stress – when pressure from an object is pushed on soft body tissues (e.g., tool handle).
Hand-Arm Vibration – vibrations that enter the body from power tools or equipment. Any of these hazards performed over long periods of time can cause problems, and activities with more than one ergonomic risk factor can increase physical discomfort even more.
Preventing Ergonomic Hazards
Manual handling of tools and materials:
- Use equipment (dollies, carts, hoists, motorized buggies) and other mechanical devices to push or pull instead of carrying
- Get help from other workers to move things that are heavy or awkward
- Break loads into smaller units; carry a 50lb load twice instead of a 100lb load once
- Prepare by stretching and warming up before performing lifting tasks with proper techniques
- Bring the work up to your neutral posture by using tables or stands, and keep materials you use often at waist height
- When you perform low-level work, change your position often (kneel, crouch, squat, or sit)
- Use high-quality knee pads for kneeling
- Use equipment with longer handles to minimize low-level postures (bending over) if possible
- To minimize how far you move from a neutral posture, use material lifts, scissor lifts, scaffolds, or other equipment that brings you closer to your work
- One size does not fit all – employers need to provide tools that properly fit the worker’s grip
- Select tools that keep your wrist in a neutral posture, especially while exerting force
- Maintain tools in good working order to help minimize vibration