Ergonomics in the Workplace: Take It Seriously or Risk Long-Term Injuries

Ergonomics is a large term that is often used to how humans interact with their work environment. It can be something very simple, such as the height and angle of a desk for an office worker, to something more complex, such as how a health care worker moves a patient. It is related to the health of the musculoskeletal system. And if ignored, can cause severe and permanent chronic injuries. Obviously prevention is much more cost effective than trying to treat the problem once it has developed. Each industry will have different ergonomic requirement, and, there are professionals that can perform evaluations and prepare recommendations.

Types Of Activities That Lead To Injuries

  • Movements, which are repeated many times, especially without rest e.g. shoveling, typing.
  • The force that needs to be exerted to accomplish a specific task. Obviously, the greater the force the greater the risk.
  • Vibrations, such as in construction work when operating machinery.
  • Prolonged cold temperatures, which can damage joints.
  • Awkward and prolonged body posture, especially if there is no movement e.g. someone that is picking vegetables from the ground and is bent over for many hours.
  • Unnatural posture, such as slouching on a chair while working.
  • Repeated lifting above body height. This can lead to shoulder injuries.
  • Unsafe lifting techniques.

Examples Of Chronic Injuries

  • Tendinitis: swelling of a tendon that results in pressure on the surrounding nerves. This usually occurs from repeated movements.
  • Rotator cuff: a shoulder injury that prevents full range of motion without severe pain.
  • Frozen shoulder: a shoulder injury where the person can only lift the arm part way.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome: very similar to tendinitis. Usually happens to office workers from too much typing without rest or stretches.
  • Muscle strains, usually of the lower back. Can be chronic or can occur immediately. Usually a result of lifting improperly or lifting a heavy object.

Safety Precautions

  • Regularly assess the work environment for potential ergonomic related risks and take steps to reduce them. Sometimes very minor changes can lead to huge improvements.
  • Accept suggestions from employees.
  • Avoid prolonged repeated activities.
  • Use proper equipment e.g.lifting machines.
  • Make sure your work environment is suited for your needs e.g. chair height, desk height, work boots size, etc.
  • If an injury occurs seek medical advice. These injuries rarely go away by themselves.
  • Practice proper use of equipment, tools, etc.
  • Learn to recognize the warning signs of an injury and seek help immediately.
  • Recognition of MSDs and their early indications.
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