According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one-third of all workers compensation claims are due to ergonomic issues. Simply defined, ergonomics is the study of work. More specifically, it is the science of fitting the job to the worker, rather that forcing the worker's body to fit the job. This can be done in various ways, such as adapting work stations, tasks, tools, and equipment to fit the worker to reduce the physical stress and illness on the worker's body.
So, what types of tasks are more likely to pose ergonomic hazards?
• Manual handling
• Manufacturing and production
• Heavy lifting
• Twisting movements
• Long hours of working in awkward positions
There are also outside factors that can contribute to the likelihood of developing an ergonomic related illness or a musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) such as smoking and lack of exercise/healthy lifestyle. Carrying more body weight and smoking cause more stress on the body. Staying active and not smoking not only improves overall well-being, but exercise has been proven to prevent or help with lower back pain.
Whether you are working at a desk all day in an office, or lifting and moving boxes in a warehouse, there are several things you can do to improve ergonomics in your daily life. Below are some tips to help improve ergonomics for both types of work.
For the office worker, make sure:
• Chairs have proper lumbar and arm support, and can be adjusted for height
• Feet are flat on the ground, or on a foot rest
• The viewing distance from your eyes to the monitor is at least 18 inches
• Your keyboard and mouse are at approximately elbow height
• Lighting is sufficient enough where you don't have to strain, but not too bright where glare is an issue
• Take short breaks. Look away from your screen every 15 minutes, get up and walk around every 30 or 60 minutes
• Get out of your chair and stretch or move around
For the worker lifting heavy objects:
• Stretch and warm up before you perform any lifting
• Keep your back straight and bend your knees
• Be sure to never twist or bend your back
• Keep the box or object close to your body
• Limit the amount of weight you carry (take several trips)
• Ask for help carrying large, bulky or heavy loads
• Keep pathways clear of tripping hazards
Though ergonomics in the workplace is crucial, it is important to remember that safety follows you home! These techniques can be applied to everyday tasks both on and off the job. For more information on ergonomics, visit the official OSHA website.