Ergonomics and Biomechanics are not always considered when developing a workplace. A lack of attention to these factors can result in injury, worker dissatisfaction, increased absenteeism, poor morale and decreased productivity. This post will discuss the consequences of ergonomic mishaps in the workplace as well as some steps you can take to prevent them from happening.
What is Ergonomics?
The best way to describe workplace ergonomics is to start with what the goal is for ergonomics in the workplace. There is a balance between a working environment and the human’s capabilities and the task or job demands. The goal of ergonomics is to fit the particular job to a person, rather than making the person fit the job.
Ergonomics is the science of fitting people for their jobs, both physically and psychologically. Biomechanics is the study of how humans move in order to prevent injury or illness, so it’s important that workplaces have an understanding of both aspects in order to be successful at creating a healthy working environment for all employees.
The priority is not just making sure that everyone can complete their tasks without pain or injury but also increasing productivity while reducing injuries. When accidents happen, they leave companies liable for any lost time due to dismissal from work as well.
Safety in the workplace is most employers top goal when it comes to creating a pleasant workplace and environment, however there are some best practices to be aware of when designing your workplace with your employees in mind.
What Will An Ergonomic Specialist Evaluate?
When a company brings in an ergonomic specialist they will evaluate a variety of factors when performing an evaluation and will likely check the following:
- Awkward Posture or Angles
- Static Postures
- Direct Pressure
An ergonomic evaluation expert will pay attention to certain body mechanics while helping an employee with tips on how to maintain good body posture as well as rotating through tasks to interrupt periods of repetitive motion and activity or prolonged or static posture.
Safety and Personal Protection In The Workplace
Safety is the top priority of an employer to ensure that an employee feels not only safe but capable of completing their assigned duties. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2018 alone there were over 272,000 musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) reported in the U.S. private sector. Depending on the job role, an employee can be left vulnerable to different risks or injuries and prevention is key to maintaining a safe environment for employers and employees alike.
Eye injury prevention in the workplace is imperative for employers and employees alike. Ocular trauma or scleral rupture is a common injury associated with workplace accidents.
Proper ergonomic evaluations will allow you to identify any hazards that may cause problems within your facility and how they can be corrected before becoming serious issues. If there are already existing eye hazards at your organization it is essential to conduct an ergonomic assessment so that protective measures are taken into account. Eyewear and/or safety glasses equipped with side shields, proper ventilation, eyewash stations, etc., should be available to employees in order to reduce ocular trauma risk during everyday tasks performed throughout business operations.
Overall, it is important to maintain proper protection against small particles of matter that can enter your eyes and damage them. Toxic gases, vapors, liquids, dust, etc., can damage your eyes when working with hazardous materials. Always wear eye protection and follow safe work protocols to prevent eye injuries while on the job.
Hearing protection is important because your ears are composed of very delicate structures. Whenever a sound is produced, air is set into motion as sound waves. Sound is collected in the outer ear and funneled to the eardrum. When sound waves hit the eardrum, it vibrates and sends sound to the middle ear. The middle ear amplifies the vibrations and sends them to the inner ear. The vibrations stimulate hair cells in the inner ear and create an electrical impulse. This impulse travels to the brain along the auditory nerve, causing the sensation of sound.
There are two different types of hearing loss, conductive and sensory hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss can cause middle ear infections, eardrum perforation, fixation of the ossicular chain, and otosclerosis which can be treated medically or surgically.
Sensory hearing loss can be from genetics, aging, noise, disease, or injury and can’t be corrected medically or surgically and is permanent. Most workplace hearing losses are sensory hearing loss. Employers in environments where employees are subjected to duties that may cause hearing loss should be provided with foam ear plugs, PVC ear plugs, or ear muffs.
Whenever you take a breath, oxygen rich air is taken in through your mouth and nose, goes down your windpipe and into your lungs. In your lungs, there are tiny air sacs called alveoli. These air sacs then transfer the oxygen that is in the air into your blood. At the same time the oxygen is being absorbed into your bloodstream, carbon dioxide is being transferred from your bloodstream into the air sacs. When you breathe out, you are ridding your body of gaseous wastes.
There are a variety of inhalation risks that can occur in a working environment. Dust, vapors, mists, sprays, and fumes can be breathed in and cause damage to your lungs if proper protective equipment (such as air purifying masks or devices) isn’t worn while on the job and should be available and worn by employees while working in conditions that put them at risk.
The most common type of head injury occurs from either flying or falling objects at the workplace. Wearing a hard hat can help keep you safe from injury and even save your life.
A hard hat is the best line of defense to protect the most delicate part of your body. A proper hard hat will have a rigid shell, a suspension system, insulators that can protect you from electrical shock, as well as a shield to safeguard your head from any injuries that can occur while on the job.
Foot & Hand Safety
The human foot is rigid enough to support the weight of your entire body, and yet flexible enough to allow you to run, dance, play sports, and to take you anywhere you want to go. Without your feet and toes, your ability to work at your job would be greatly reduced.
Stubbed toes, machines rolling over feet, or spills can help be prevented by workplaces ensuring that their machinery, tools, and work areas are cleaned and maintained properly, as well as employee’s wearing steel toed boots to help prevent these types of accidents.
It has been estimated that almost 20%of all disabling accidents on the job involve the hands. Without your fingers or hands, your ability to work would be greatly reduced. No other creature in the world has hands that can grasp, hold, move, and manipulate objects like human hands. They are one of your greatest assets. And, as such, must be protected and cared for.
Traumatic, contact, and musculoskeletal injuries can be the biggest risk factor for someone in their workplace if machine guards aren’t in place or if there isn’t proper maintenance performed on machines. Good hand hygiene and glove wearing can also prevent the spread of germs and infection from one person to the next.
Spinal anatomy is a remarkable combination of strong bones, flexible ligaments and tendons, large muscles and highly sensitive nerves. It is designed to be incredibly strong, protecting the highly sensitive nerve roots, yet highly flexible, providing for mobility on many different planes. Most of us take this juxtaposition of strength, structure and flexibility for granted in our everyday lives—until something goes wrong. Once we’re in pain, we’re driven to know what’s wrong and what it will take to relieve the pain and prevent a recurrence.
Preventing back injuries can be done by using safe lifting techniques, such as making sure you bend at your knees and never at your back when lifting something heavy. Pay attention to body mechanics by maintaining good body posture and rotating through tasks to interrupt periods of repetitive activity after holding postures for a long period of time. Regular exercising helps to increase balance and strength and warming up at work before engaging in physical activity.
Falls At Work
In 2019, over 25% of nonfatal work injuries stem from trips, slips, and falls, causing employees to miss days of work. Slips happen where there is too little friction or traction between the footwear and the walking surface. To prevent slips and falls in the workplace employers should make sure that all spills are cleaned immediately and that spills are marked with the appropriate signage. Keeping obstacles out of walkways and covering cables, as well as employee’s wearing the proper work footwear will help to keep employees from falling at work.
Sometimes, even when trying your best to avoid a fall it can happen to the best of us. If you do fall, try to avoid using your arms to protect yourself as well as bending your back and head forward to avoid hitting your head. Roll into the fall and try not to fall forward as well as tossing any items you may be carrying can help protect yourself when falling from serious injury.
The way we work has changed a lot over the years. We have transitioned from physical labor to office jobs and now there is a trend of working remotely or at home. This has resulted in injuries that can be prevented with ergonomic assessments and biomechanics evaluation, as well as maintaining good body mechanics.
Even the best equipment won’t prevent an injury unless you use it correctly which is why good work habits can be a substantial factor in injury prevention. If you start feeling discomfort while working, analyze what’s going on and be willing to open and change. An ergonomic assessment or evaluation can help determine the best workplace practices for your business to ensure employees are working in safe environments to prevent injuries and time lost due to injuries.
Occupational Resource Network provides individual ergonomic assessments as well as group training and seminars that can provide benefits to both employees and businesses alike.