The term ergonomic gets thrown around the workplace all the time, but what does it really mean? Officially, ergonomics is the science that looks at the relationship between people and their work environments and the purpose of an ergonomic assessment is to complement a particular job with a specific individual. The goal is to make sure that workplace designs match the strengths and capabilities of workers. It means making the right fit between person and workstation.
Why is it helpful to have an ergonomic assessment?
The average person spends over 1800 hours per year at work, which means that sleeping is the only activity most people spend more time doing than working. Despite that, how many people really examine the setup of their workstation? It doesn’t matter whether someone works in an office, on a factory line, drives a transport, or works the cash at a store. Every job puts strain on certain parts of the body and has the potential to lead to injury if not addressed. An ergonomically sound workstation reduces the cumulative strain on the human body, which results in a decreased risk of injury. This leads to fewer cases of low back pain, wrist pain, shoulder pain and countless other conditions. This means less time taken off of work and lost wages for the worker, along with increased worker productivity for employers.
How is an ergonomic assessment completed?
There are a couple of different ways to examine a workplace in order to make effective recommendations. Firstly, it can be done directly in the office, store or factory, with the professional walking around and watching employees at their stations. Alternatively, the employee can get a fellow worker to take pictures or videos of her at her workstation and bring it in to the ergonomic assessor for feedback.
General ergonomic guidelines
No 2 workstations or workers are the same, so it’s important to have a qualified expert examine an employee’s area of work to make specific recommendations. Despite that, there are a handful of general guidelines that work well for most workstations. If you sit at a desk, ensure that you have an adjustable chair with good lumbar support. Changing the angle of the chair several times throughout the day will help prevent the same structures from always taking the majority of the strain. Your feet should rest flat on the floor or a footstool with your legs in a relaxed and comfortable position. The top of the computer monitor should be at approximately eye level to prevent any neck strain and arms should rest on armrests at about a 90 degree angle at the elbow.
Additional ways to stay healthy at work
Even with an ideally designed workstation, there are some additional ways to decrease the risk of injury at work. Firstly, keep frequently used objects as close as possible to prevent constant reaching at work. Also, it’s important to maintain a different posture from your regular work position during breaks. For example, if a person sits at a desk for the majority of the day, he should stand and walk during his breaks. Conversely, if an individual is standing for large parts of a shift, breaks should be used for sitting and resting. Finally, employees should move and stretch whenever possible. It is not realistic to get up from a desk every few minutes to move, but even 20 seconds every 20 minutes to stretch briefly or simply stand up can reduce the strain on numerous body parts.
The Final Word
Every worker and every workplace is different, so it’s best to have an expert take a look at your specific workstation for individual suggestions. No matter what your workstation looks like, it is important to change positions whenever possible and try to stretch and move for a few seconds every hour. The bottom line is that better ergonomics means less chance of injury and pain.