Ergonomics is a science that considers the relationship between the worker, tools/materials and the environment. It helps fit a job to a person thereby helping lessen muscle fatigue, increases productivity and reduces the number and severity of work-related MSDs (Musculoskeletal disorders) like Carpal tunnel syndrome, Tendinitis, Rotator cuff injuries, Epicondylitis, Trigger finger, Muscle strains, Lower back injuries, etc.
Ergonomics helps create a safe, comfortable and productive workspace by bringing human abilities and limitations into the design of the job and workspace; including the individual’s body size, strength, skill, speed, sensory abilities (vision, hearing), and even attitudes.
This article aims to enumerate “11 Valid Ergonomics Principles for Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace”.
Ergonomics can be seen in three different categories
- Physical ergonomics: This is concerned with human anatomy, and some of the anthropometric, physiological and bio mechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity. It involves designing user interaction with equipment and workplaces to fit the user.
- Cognitive ergonomics: This is concerned with mental processes, such as perception, memory, reasoning, and motor response, as they affect interactions among humans and other elements of a system.
- Organizational ergonomics: Organizational ergonomic is concerned with the optimization of socio-technical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes.
In this article, we will be concentrating majorly in physical ergonomics.
Importance of ergonomics in the workplace
According to Safe Work Australia, total economic cost of work-related injuries and illnesses is estimated to be $60 billion dollars, and research has shown that lower back pain is the world’s most common work-related disability affecting employees who are exposed to ergonomic hazards. If the principle of ergonomics are implemented in different area of duties, the risk of musculoskeletal disorders will be greatly mitigated, workers’ compensation costs will be cut out, there will be increase productivity and decrease employee turnover.
11 Valid Ergonomics Principles for Preventing Musculoskeletal Disorders in the Workplace
- Maintain Neutral Posture: Neutral posture is the body natural align posture where there is no strain nor tension in any area. In the neutral posture of the body, the body is relaxed.
- Keep Everything in Easy Reach: Work station design should be in a way that everything needed for the job is within reach to prevent over-reaching. Over-Reaching can result to lower back injury.
- Work in the Power / Comfort Zone: Your power zone is the zone where your body can execute a task with little or no effort. For lifting, your power zone is the area close to your body.
- Allow for Movement and Stretching: Sustaining a static position can lead to fatigue. Static position can be standing in one place for hours, twisting your body for a long time to complete a task, etc. It is advisable to give room for movement and stretching intermittently as a task progresses or at the completion of a task depending on how long it will take before the task is completed.
- Reduce Excess force: Do not expose your body to excess force. For instance pushing or pulling an object which requires a lot of effort to move. Mechanical means should be adopted in such cases. Excessive force can make your muscles to be fatigued.
- Reduce Excessive Motion: Though we have to entertain movement, excessive movement will be detrimental to your muscle. Excessive motion can be seen in repetitive activities. When it takes about 30 seconds or less to complete a cycle of task, such task is said to be a repetitive task and it will favour the development of musculoskeletal injury.
- Minimize Contact Stress: Contact stress results from continuous contact or rubbing between hard or sharp objects/surfaces and sensitive body tissue, such as soft tissue of the fingers, palms, thighs and feet. This contact creates localized pressure for a small area of the body, which can inhibit blood, nerve function, or movement of tendons and muscles.
- Reduce Excessive Vibration: Excessive exposure to vibration is injurious to the body. The range of symptoms caused by hand-arm vibration is termed HAV’S (Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome). Excessive exposure to vibration can as well result to specific diseases such as white finger or Raynaud’s syndrome, carpel tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.
- Provide Adequate Lighting: Adequate lighting should be provided in the work area to prevent straining of the eyes. Dimly lit area or glare can result to eye fatigue, headache, and also put workers at greater risk for different types of injuries.
- Work at Proper Heights: Working at proper height cannot be over emphasized. It is advisable that you always work at your elbow height. Exception for this rule is that; job which needs precision should be done close to the eye level while jobs that need physical strength should be done below the elbow height.
- Provide Clearance: Give yourself space around your work area for easy movement and positioning. You don’t need to bump into equipment and materials when trying to move out from your workstation of while trying to stretch your legs.