The Fundamentals Behind Ergonomics

By Amanda Roberts, CEAS, ATC. Imagine your job requires you to work at a standing workstation that comes up to just below the belt. To successfully complete your work, you are required to bend over at the waist and look down at your workstation. Would you enjoy working like this? Do you think your back and neck would be sore? What issues do you think would arise from working in that setup for 5 days a week, 8 hours a day? That right there is an example of poor ergonomics.

Ergonomics is a term in which over the past several years, has become more prevalent in the workplace. You may ask yourself, “What is ergonomics?” Or, “Why haven’t I heard of it before.” Some of you may have heard the term, but aren’t sure what it means or why it is of concern to you. Ergonomics is the science of work. It studies work, how work is done, and how to make it better. When a person or company is looking to implement proper ergonomics in the workplace, they will focus on fitting the work to the worker. The idea behind “fitting the work to the worker” stems from two things: comfort and efficiency. Ultimately, if the employee is comfortable while working, they will work more efficiently.

One might ask, “How do we go about and change the workstation to fit the worker?” There are a couple of ways:

  • Workstation Setup
  • Proper equipment
  • Changing of positions (Job rotation)
  • Maintaining neutral positions
  • Use of correct body mechanics
  • Stretch, strengthen, and micro-breaks

When attempting to make a workstation ergonomically correct, there 5 components to pay attention to. An easy way to remember these components is ESPN+G.

  • E: Elbows in – Keep elbows close to the body; avoid reaching
  • S: Squatting position – Maintain shoulder width base of support; squat at knees while keeping back neutral
  • P: Pivoting of feet – Move both legs in the direction you are going or facing; Shoulders should always remain aligned with feet
  • N: Neutral position – Maintain neutral positions with neck, back, and wrist
  • Green Zone – Keep majority of work between shoulders and knees

carpal-tunnel-wrist

What is the purpose of good ergonomics? Good ergonomics prevents Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are injuries that occur due to wear and tear on the body tissues and joints and may develop over time due to ergonomic risks. A common example of a MSD is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which is often found in employees whose job requires a lot of wrist and hand use.  Some of the most common ergonomic risks associated with a job are repetitive motion (most common), force and loading, posture, contact stress, and vibration. An example of this would be working excessive overtime or working through breaks. By working overtime or working through breaks, you are limiting the amount of time your muscles have to recover from the work day.

It is important to remember that:  lack of recovery time = fatigue = injury!

Ultimately, good ergonomics is your friend. Implementing good ergonomics throughout the workplace doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. It could be something as simple as investing in an ergonomically-friendly mouse or an ergonomically-friendly keyboard. If you’re looking to reduce the amount of time you are sitting down at your desk in order to complete work, invest in a versatile desk that can be raised or lowered to fit your needs. If the circumstances don’t allow you to financially invest in ergonomically-friendly products, you can implement a stretching routine throughout your office that has to be completed every 2-4 hours. Chances are there are plenty of opportunities around your workspace to implement ergonomics, the question becomes “Am I worth it?” or “Are my employees worth it?” The answer, should always be yes.

About The Author

Amanda Roberts join IWS in August 2016 as Corporate Athletic Trainer. Prior to joining IWS, she has both studied and worked in a variety of athletic settings including high school, collegiate, and industrial. Most recently, she was the Head Athletic Trainer at Frito-Lay, Inc., where she developed and implemented health, wellness, and ergonomic programs for corporate employees. She has also lead several national Ergonomic training classes throughout Frito-Lay in order to help the sites stay in compliance with OSHA auditing standards.

Amanda looks forward to educating the community within Shanghai about the athletic training profession and hopes to continue her growth as an athletic trainer in the corporate setting. Amanda is a Native of Buffalo, New York, USA.

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