As most safety professionals know, injuries related to ergonomics are those caused by over-use, impact, vibration, repetition and forceful exertion. Work practices you can share with your workers to help them reduce their risk of ergonomic-related injuries.
1. Have a lot of stuff on your desk? Place the items you use most frequently closest to you to avoid repeated extended reaches.
2. Fitting the physical workspace to the worker‚ÄĚ is often touted as the best way to prevent MSDs.
3. Avoid daily activities that place the arm above shoulder level. This will significantly decrease the risk of a shoulder injury.
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What is Ergonomics
The term "ergonomics" was first used by Wojciech Jastrzebowski, a Polish scholar, in 1857. he derived it from the Greek word ergon (work) and nomos (principle or law) to mean the Science of Work.
Ergonomics a body of knowledge about human abilities, human limitations and human characteristics in all fields of works.
It is the study that seems to fit the job to the person, rather than the person to the job.
This is achieved by evaluation and design of the workplaces, environments, jobs, tasks,
equipment, and processes in relationship to the human capabilities and interactions.
Domains of Specialization
Practicing ergonomists must have a broad understanding of the full scope of the discipline, taking into account the physical, cognitive, social, organizational, environmental and other relevant factors.¬† Ergonomists often work in particular economic sectors or application domains.¬† These application domains are not mutually exclusive and they evolve constantly.¬† New ones are created; old ones take on new perspectives. Within the discipline, domains of specialization represent deeper competencies in specific human attributes or characteristics of human interaction:
Physical ergonomics is concerned with human anatomical, anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics as they relate to physical activity.¬† The relevant topics include working postures, materials handling, repetitive movements, work-related musculoskeletal disorders, workplace layout, safety and health.
Cognitive ergonomics 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.¬†The relevant topics include mental workload, decision-making, skilled performance, human-computer interaction, human reliability, work stress and training as these may relate to human-system design.
Organizational ergonomics is concerned with the optimization of socio-technical systems, including their organizational structures, policies, and processes. The relevant topics include communication, crew resource management, work design, design of working times, teamwork, participatory design, community ergonomics, cooperative work, new work paradigms, organizational culture, virtual organizations, tele-work, and quality management.
The increased rate and high cost of ergonomic injuries and illnesses cut across all industries and occupations. Direct costs may include medical services and higher workers‚Äô compensation premium while indirect cost range from increased employees turnover, absenteeism and restraining may also occur, productivity, product quality and employees‚Äô morale may suffer. All these translate to mean the difference between being above and below in profit margin.
When Is It applied?
Ergonomics works best in new design and built into on-going activities already established within your organisation, such as safety, maintenance, purchasing, quality, control, ware-housing, and office practice.
Ergonomics does not require extra time but is a value-added, way of doing business. Ergonomic solutions are not expensive but tend to be low tech and cost effective
Who is it for?
Everyone in Nigeria can benefit from ergonomics knowledge. Designers can attain concise user friendly and human adapted design interface. End-users can identify and correct elements of stressful work tasks more easily, whereas management and support personnel can influence and optimize worker-task relationships through the decisions they make in their jobs. Government and its agencies can legislate appropriate standards for the good of the populace.
How does it work?
They study the way these things vary in a group of people. With this information, the ergonomist, working with designers and engineers, ensures that a product or services will be able to be used comfortably, efficiently and safely. This design must be for a wide range of people who use the product including children, the elderly and the disabled when applicable. An ergonomist can also assess existing products and services; showing where they fail to fit the user (in every sense of the word) and suggesting how this fit may be improved.
How does ergonomics improve Health and Safety in the workplace?
Ergonomics in the workplace can reduce the potential for accidents, injury and ill health and improve productivity and performance. Accidents can be reduced by through better design of controls. If, for example, a switch on a control board is switched on accidentally it may mean the switch should be moved to prevent accidental operation. This is ergonomics in action.
Ill health or injury can be prevented by ensuring there is adequate lighting in all areas and that such lighting does not cause glare or causes eye strain due to low light levels. If, for example, an operator's mouse is positioned too far away and requires repeated stretching movements to reach then this could lead to Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI). Re-arranging the operator's work area so the mouse and other frequently used items are within easy reach can prevent such injuries. A computer operator's chair must also be adjustable to the correct height for the operator to prevent hunching, should provide lumbar or lower back support and enable the operator to sit at a comfortable distance from the screen and keyboard. Ergonomic principles even extend to a worker's shift patterns. Shifts should have enough time between them to enable the worker to recover fully, attend to domestic responsibilities and prevent workers from doing excessive overtime. This means workers are rested, alert, and less likely to have an accident or fall ill.
There are several ways you can identify an ergonomic problem, from simple observation and common sense through to¬†risk assessment or simple checklists. We recommend several methods are used to cover all eventualities.
If you think you have identified an ergonomic problem there are several things you should do to solve it.