Ergonomics is defined as the study of how equipment and furniture can be arranged to allow people to work or do activities more efficiently and comfortably.
Despite being a relatively new concept, the field of ergonomics has gained a tremendous amount of interest and attention. Ergonomics encompasses every aspect of an individual’s life, especially one’s workplace. Canadians spend many hours at work each week; therefore, office ergonomics is and extremely important aspect of workplace safety and efficiency. In this article we will explain ergonomics and its significance, and outline how to ensure your workplace is ergonomically sound.
An ergonomic workplace is a happy and healthy workplace!
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics studies how people interact with their work environment. Numerous aspects, such as the tools and equipment used, the places people work, and the psychosocial aspects of a workplace environment are all taken into consideration.
- Physical: How the worker interacts with the physical environment. Ex. Material handling, repetitive work, and work postures.
- Design: How the worker deals with the equipment. Ex. Equipment and workplace design.
- Organizational: Recognizes that work is part of a larger system and the way it is organized impacts productivity and injury rates. Ex. Work pacing, task or job rotation, and work schedules.
- Environmental: How the overall work atmosphere impacts the worker’s performance and health. Ex. Temperature, lighting, and vibration.
What is Anthropometrics and Why is it Important?
Anthropometrics is the science of human body measurements and how these measurements relate to an individual’s equipment and design. Ergonomics is extremely individualistic. It focuses on fitting the job to the employee, instead of the employee to the job. Anthropometrics is an important consideration because each person is different and consequently will require a unique workplace to fit their ergonomic needs.
Every workplace is completely different and attracts a workforce with diverse needs. It is imperative for a company to consider their workers and the nature of the job while designing an office and selecting office supplies.
An employee’s work station should be adjustable. As mentioned before, each person has different anthropometrics; therefore, the workplace should adjust to make each worker feel comfortable and to prevent stress and strain. Employees want to feel valued and important, hence it may be beneficial to include the employee in the decision-making process of their work location and equipment. Examples of equipment that can be adjustable at a work station are chairs, stools, desks, or any device being used by the employee.
Fatigue and Rest
Fatigue is the lack of energy experienced by an individual due to prolonged activity. It can be associated with physical exertion, discomfort, lack of motivation, or sleepiness. Many employees work long hours and fail to receive their recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night (Statistics Canada, 2017). Additionally, many people fail to capitalize on their recommended breaks, something that is essential for refocusing and preventing burnout. Not only is the recommended amount of rest important, but so is the quality of rest the employee is taking. It is essential to ensure that one’s breaks and rest periods are relaxing to allow for recovery. It is important to remember that individuals recover at different rates and that employees need to find a schedule that works best for them. Employees need to establish a good work-rest ratio that provides them with time to recuperate after the work day.
Risk of Injury
Workplace injuries have been occurring at an alarming rate. Many jobs are taxing on the employee’s body and this stress and strain can lead to injury. The risk of injury is correlated to the degree of job difficulty. Many jobs are repetitive and can lead to accumulative injuries. Although some repetitive strain is inevitable with most jobs, employees can reduce the effects by taking breaks, ensuring good posture, and implementing task rotation. Regardless of one’s job, it is important to ensure that they are working safely and minimizing the risk of injury. Ergonomic implementations regarding posture and breaks can reduce the number of musculoskeletal injuries, therefore improving employee satisfaction and increasing productivity. It is crucial that employers not only consider their workers’ physical health but also their emotional, social, and mental health.
Although ergonomic implementations are extremely important, they will not have a significant impact on a company without the proper training. Employees and employers alike should be educated on the importance of an ergonomically sound workplace in reducing the rate of injuries. Employees should be supplied with adequate knowledge about these changes and provided with training on how to properly apply and use each adjustment. Employers should ensure these changes are having positive effects and are beneficial to the employees. It is suggested that companies have an individual responsible for ergonomic considerations which will provide employees the opportunity to voice their suggestions and feedback regarding implementations.
Recommendations for Companies:
- Engineer or select adjustable equipment that can be fitted to each employee.
- Promote the importance of getting the recommended hours of sleep.
- Ensure proper work-to-rest ratios, good quality breaks, and task rotation.
- Promote good overall health amongst employees.
- Educate workers on proper techniques, equipment adjustment, rest requirements, and any other ergonomic solutions that have been implemented.
Have you or a loved one been injured at work, or are looking for a solution to make your workplace more ergonomically sound? Contact us and get started on your path to wellness with Arthritis and Injury Care today!