Ergonomics: What is it?
Ergonomics is the practice of designing a job that ensures the safety of the worker. More specifically, it is the science of adapting a workspace to a worker’s needs. The necessity for ergonomics has grown significantly as a result of the usage of computers and quickly evolving technology in the modern workplace.
When designing a workplace, consider the height of desks, the angle of computer monitors, and the required mobility throughout the day. For example, a height-adjustable desk can help create a balance between sitting and standing, which is a proven approach to counteract the impacts of sedentary workplace behavior.
Ergonomics in the Workplace
However, office settings are not the only place for ergonomics. While our training kits prepare you to avoid common accidents, such as misusing equipment, there are other, less obvious, hazards. Injuries that happen over time may not seem as pressing, but they have lasting consequences.
Prolonged standing, poor posture, repeated activities or motions, and overwork can all cause injury. Your own body weight, as well as the weight of objects you lift, can injure your back and joints. Because back and joint problems can occur over time, you may not realize the seriousness of your symptoms. When you begin to feel a strain in your back or joints, rest and evaluate your work practices. Ergonomics is a simple way to avoid injury. Follow these guidelines to stay healthy.
If your job requires standing for long periods, you may encounter lower back pain from your muscles losing elasticity from prolonged contraction. Your body has difficulty staying still for more than 20 minutes. If you need to stay standing, take a minute to stretch every 20 minutes. Flexing your joints lets your muscles relax and contract, allowing better blood flow and keeping your muscles loose. Try out the minute-long stretches listed below:
- Put your hands on your hips and twist side to side to loosen your lower back and shoulders.
- Stand on one foot and bring your opposite knee up as far as you can to stretch out your hip. Repeat on the other side.
- Stand on one foot and grab the opposite ankle to bend your knee and stretch the front of your leg and hip.
- Lean forward to place your hands on your knees or shins to stretch all the small muscles along your spine.
- Stand on your tiptoes to raise and lower your heels. This will flex your calves and ankles.
NIOSH Lifting Resources
Manually lifting and moving objects is a common task for employees in a variety of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, retail, transportation, and warehousing. According to research, workers who are exposed to repeated motion, force, vibration, or uncomfortable positions are more likely to sustain musculoskeletal injuries at work. To help businesses create an ergonomics program, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has created many helpful resources and materials. One of the most helpful resources available is the NIOSH Lifting Equation.
NIOSH Lifting Equation
The NIOSH Lifting Equation estimates the risk of suffering a back injury when carrying out lifting operations. So, what is the NIOSH Lifting Equation? Broken down, it reads:
RWL = LC x HM x VM x DM x FM x AM x CM
Written out like that, it probably doesn’t do you a lot of good. So, let’s break it down even further. The Lifting Equation defines a recommended weight limit (RWL), which is the heaviest load that a healthy worker should be able to lift without increasing the risk of developing low back pain. To calculate the RWL, we must first identify six critical lifting task measurements:
- Horizontal Distance (H) – is the distance of hands on the load from midpoint between ankles.
- Vertical Location (V) – is the starting height of the hands from the ground.
- Distance (D) – refers to the lift’s vertical travel distance.
- Frequency (F) – refers to the frequency you lift or time between lifts.
- Angle (A) – refers to the load angle in relation to the body.
- Coupling (C) – the quality of the grasp or handhold is determined by the type of handle available.
Where the load constant (LC), the weight of the object lifted, and other variables in the equation are as follows:
- HM, the Horizontal Multiplier factor
- VM, the Vertical Multiplier factor
- DM, the Distance Multiplier factor
- FM, the Frequency Multiplier factor
- AM, the Asymmetric Multiplier factor
- CM, the Coupling Multiplier factor
By calculating the RWL, you can determine which of the six components increases risk. The multiplier factors’ values range from 0 to 1. The lower the multiplier, the greater the risk, and the lower the RWL for injury prevention.
Once you determine the RWL, you can figure out the Lifting Index (LI). The Lifting Index is an estimate of the physical stress associated with manual lifting duty. To put it plainly, the Lifting Index answers the question of “How big is the risk?”. Written out, it reads: LI = Load Weight/RWL
An LI value of 1.0 or less indicates a nominal risk to healthy employees, while an LI over 1.5 suggests an elevated amount of stress and an increased risk of damage. As the LI increases, the percentage of workers who can safely complete the task falls. For some people, work is considered high risk if the Lifting Index is more than 1.0. The risk of harm rises in direct proportion to the LI. The objective is to have an LI of 1.0 or less for all lifting jobs.
How the Lifting Equation Can Work for You
The Lifting Equation can be used to evaluate two-handed lifting and lowering tasks performed by one standing person. However, you cannot use the Lifting Equation if the task is completed:
- With one hand
- In extreme temperatures
- For more than 8 hours
- While sitting or kneeling
- While pushing or pulling
- While using wheelbarrows or shovels
- Involving unstable objects (such as buckets or containers of liquids)
- With high-speed motion (faster than about 30 inches per second)
- With extremely hot or cold objects
The equation allows you to test and determine the ideal lifting conditions, while allowing you to see and understand which factors of lifting pose the biggest risk. You can foresee the consequences and make accommodations. By applying the formula and changing the values, you can improve your form and avoid injury. It is possible to more quickly address the primary variables causing an elevated risk of damage by being able to change the causal components in the formula.
Ergonomics is crucial since your musculoskeletal system is impacted when your body is under stress from a job-related awkward posture, severe temperature, or repeated movement. Your body may begin to exhibit the early signs of a musculoskeletal problem, including fatigue, discomfort, and pain.
Musculoskeletal disorders are a group of conditions that affect the bones, joints, muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and connective tissues. These disorders, which can cause pain and loss of function, are among the most disabling and expensive conditions in the United States. MSDs can appear gradually over time or suddenly as a result of overload. The following are factors that may cause you to develop an MSD:
- Heaving lifting
- Pushing or pulling
- Awkward or prolonged postures
- Repetitive activities
- Overhead work
- Contact stress
- Extreme temperatures
There are many lesserl-known negative effects of not having an ergonomic program in place for your workplace in addition to the obvious ones associated with injuries and MSDs. These consequences include:
- Overtime resulting from personnel covering for an injured worker
- Modification of duty accommodations
- An increase in absences
- A decline in morale
- Investigation and legal fees
- Presenteeism (when a worker returns to work too soon and is less productive than when they were in good health)
- Replacement worker costs
- Recruitment and advertising if the person doesn’t return to employment.
- Orientation and training costs
Businesses and corporations can reduce downtime and increase efficiency by incorporating ergonomics into daily operations. Ultimately, businesses that prioritize employee health and well-being tend to have the happiest, most productive employees and, therefore, the most prosperous and successful workplaces.
Good ergonomics practices are advantageous to both employers and employees. Proper ergonomics in the workplace can help office employees and staff prevent workplace injuries while also allowing workers to be more efficient and productive. Also, you can build business loyalty, promote a stronger safety culture, and raise morale.
An ergonomics program is a company’s process of communicating suitable and workable solutions to ergonomic concerns that enhance the workplace when applied. An effective ergonomics program must have the support of management and employee participation.
Your organization can save money by implementing a thorough ergonomics program. While an ergonomics program will look different from workplace to workplace, here are some of the baseline components:
- Worker Involvement – The ergonomics program must involve workers in all aspects.
- Leadership Responsibility – Employers and managers must prioritize employee safety and health.
- Training – Employees must be trained on the relevance of ergonomics and what is expected of them.
- Sustainability – Your program should be discussed at safety committee meetings.
- Evaluation – Keep a record of company data on annual MSD claims, expenditures, and the quantity and results of job analyses. This will support your argument when you bring up the problem with management and staff.
Improving Workplace Precautions
If lifting heavy objects is part of your job, taking a few precautions and creating safe habits will help you avoid injury.
- Never lift anything too heavy. If you need to, ask for help from another person or use equipment such as a forklift.
- Proper posture will help you avoid injury. When standing or lifting, keep your chin up and your shoulders over your hips. Tighten your abs and don’t lock your knees.
- Keep the load’s weight close to your body; it will help prevent strains.
- If you are lifting repeatedly, try to avoid lifting from the floor. If possible, stack pallets to keep the load at waist height.
- If you need to move something across a room by pushing or pulling, try placing your back against it and pushing with your legs instead of your arms and back.
Just a few good habits and a safe workplace can keep you working pain-free!
Ergonomic Risk Reduction Techniques
Job rotation is a great way of reducing ergonomic stress. By cross training employees, they are able to alternate jobs during the day. Frequently changing responsibilities throughout the day breaks up monotony and fights fatigue. For example, have employees spend an hour typing then an hour filing.
Next, implementing job risk assessments will help determine the hazards associated with each workplace task. To avoid obvious hazards, workers can break down each job into smaller tasks.
As the employer, you can use a job risk analysis to determine how each task influences the overall occupational risk factors.
Selecting the appropriate tools is paramount to ergonomics. Take, for example, a handle extension. By employing one, bending can be eliminated from many jobs, putting less strain on the back and joints. Remember that your greatest resource will always be your workers. Employees know the ins and outs of their job responsibilities as well as their own limits. So, get them involved! They should be part of developing an ergonomics procedure. Once they are pros at ergonomics, have them train incoming staff members.
Lastly, and most importantly, complete ergonomics training. Inform employees on the risk factors of musculoskeletal illnesses as well as how ergonomics can make their jobs easier and safer. Train employees to recognize job duties that may pose a danger and to find better ways to execute such jobs. If you’re looking for a reliable training service, check out our ergonomic training courses. Whether you need Office Training, Construction and Industrial Training, or even Medical Training, Hard Hat Training has got your covered.