Ergonomics is defined as the study/process of fitting a job environment to a worker. The purpose of ergonomics is to reduce physical stress on workers’ bodies, which in turn reduces the rates of work-related illness and injury. Poor ergonomics often leads to a variety of muscuskeletal disorders (MSD), such carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, and tendinitis, muscle strains, torn ligaments and more. Thankfully, conditions such as these can often be prevented by incorporating ergonomics into the workplace.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 387,820 muscuskeletal disorders (MSD) reported in 2011, which translates into roughly one third of all work-related illnesses and injury. While the number of MSDs have declined in the past few years thanks to greater awareness, it remains a problem that all employers must address.
Place Anti-Fatigue Mats On Hard Surfaces
Anti-fatigue mats are a simple yet effective way to improve workplace ergonomics. Forcing workers to stand on concrete or similar hard surfaces for hours on end increases the risk of MSD, which is where anti-fatigue mats come into play: these mats are made of a soft, spongy material that absorbs pressure and offers a more comfortable area for workers to stand on.
Training is a crucial step in reducing work-related MSD through ergonomics. Workers should be trained on a regular basis on the proper usage of machines and equipment. Failing to train workers on these areas increases their risk of MSD.
You can read more about ongoing ergonomics training at the official OSHA website.
Lift With Your Legs
One of the most common forms of work-related MSD is lower back pack caused by improper lifting. Far too many workers lift boxes and other heavy objects by bending their back, which in turn places pressure and stress on the vertebrae. The golden rule of lifting is to lower your body by bending your knees, not your back. Whether the box is light or heavy, all objects should be lifted in this manner.
Identify MSD Injuries Early
Identifying MSD injuries early will reduce recovery times while preventing further injury. Employees should be trained on the signs and symptoms of such injuries, and they should also be encouraged to report them to their supervisor.
Look For Problem Areas In The Workplace
Employers should get into the habit of routinely inspecting their workplace for areas of high risk for MSD injuries and disorders. This may include certain workstations where workers are forced to work in awkward positions, or it may be something as simple as an office with non-ergonomic-friendly chairs and desks.