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Ergonomics focuses on finding a best fit between a worker and their work environment. The idea is that an ergonomically designed workplace involves the least exposure to the six musculoskeletal disorder risk factors. These include localized pressure, repetitive motion, vibration, excessive force, cold temperatures, and awkward or static postures.
OSHA used to have a specific standard for ergonomics, but it was repealed in 2001. This is because there are so many different scenarios in any given workplace that could pose ergonomic hazards. It is simply too hard to cover them all in a single standard. Instead, OSHA and NIOSH have produced publications addressing some ergonomic best practices specific to certain industries.
Almost every job you will ever work at involves ergonomic hazards. However, some of the more high risk industries are healthcare, office jobs, construction, warehousing, transportation, and so on.
A workplace free from ergonomic hazards allows employees to be more productive. Frequent injuries on the job can harm workplace morale and employee retention. Furthermore, lost work injuries equals less work being performed. By employing ergonomic practices in the workplace, employees are less likely to sustain chronic injuries related to MSDs.
There are six risk factors that contribute to the development of an MSD. The main cause of musculoskeletal disorders includes exposure to excessive force, repetitive motion, vibration, localized pressure, cold temperatures, and awkward or static postures. These risk factors are most often present in the workplace, but it is also possible to experience these risk factors at home.
There are all sorts of symptoms that may indicate an MSD. We can’t cover every physical sensation you may experience, but you should generally look out for stiffness, muscle spasms, pain, reduced range of motion, aches, tingling, numbness, swelling, and soreness. These are just a few symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders that you should watch for.
There are a few things you can do to make your office ergonomically correct. Make sure your computer screens are about an arm’s reach from your body and aligned with your eyes. Adjust your chair so that your feet are firmly planted on the floor. Sit up straight so that your lumbar is supported. If it isn’t, consider purchasing a different chair. Reposition your keyboard and mouse so that they allow your elbows to rest at a 90-degree angle as you work.
Contrary to popular belief, OSHA does not dictate what a passing score entails. That is ultimately up to the employer whose responsibility it is to certify, or authorize, their employee to operate a boom truck. If you want to pass him at 80%, fine. But what if a question or two among the 20% missed could lead to an accident or death? Is it worth it? Our recommendation is that you always go over any missed questions with your trainees—even if they just missed one. Once they understand the principle missed, have them write their initials by the correct answer. That way, you are protecting them and those around them from potential accidents in the future.