The Essential Features of a Healthy Ergonomic Workplace
Most potential dangers to the health and safety of employees at work have been recognised for decades, and employers have cooperated with occupational hygienists to develop appropriate countermeasures. However, although the need to ensure workers operate comfortably is equally vital, this concept has taken somewhat longer to gain widespread recognition. While the potential ill-effects of overexertion among those engaged in physical tasks are apparent, ensuring healthy workplace ergonomics can be just as essential to those in more sedentary occupations. In recent years, this study area has gained more prominence. It is now frequently included as an integral component of the surveys conducted by occupational hygiene companies.
Work tasks frequently place excessive strain on our bodies, which, over time, can result in injury, weakness, and increased susceptibility to accidents. Jobs that involve bending, stretching, or heavy lifting can often damage the musculoskeletal system, particularly the muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, and joints associated with movement. Practitioners engaged in workplace ergonomics focus on limiting the various sources of physical stress to which employees are exposed. As with the other aspects of a health and safety inspection, their responsibility is to anticipate, identify, evaluate, and improve any activities that could otherwise cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Four Principles of Workplace Ergonomics
Inspectors apply four main principles when dealing with those engaged in physically demanding activities. Firstly, they will attempt to ensure workers can assume a natural posture when performing their routine tasks. Often, this only requires adjusting the height of benches or shelves to eliminate repeated bending and stretching. Secondly, variety is often vital in workplace ergonomics. An inspector should encourage management to ensure workers periodically rotate their tasks to prevent overworking the same muscles and joints.
The third principle addresses technique. Many employees who work with tools tend to develop MSDs due to improper handling. Familiarisation with the proper handholds and gripping techniques can markedly reduce the risk of these injuries. Similarly, anyone engaged in activities that require pushing, pulling, lifting, or carrying heavy loads can also benefit from some training in the recommended techniques. The final principle deals with employees’ cognitive welfare, a relatively new addition to the science of workplace ergonomics. In this area, the focus is twofold and begins by exploring ways to modify inherently stressful tasks. The second phase involves training staff to approach tasks in ways that reduce stress. An added benefit of lowering cognitive pressure is that errors frequently associated with it will also be reduced.
As previously mentioned, many employed in sedentary jobs can also be exposed to the risk of MSDs and cognitive stress. For example, a desk or seat of unsuitable height for the occupant can eventually lead to chronic, disabling lower back pain. People who spend hours operating a keyboard are a common concern for workplace ergonomics practitioners. Due to poor positioning, pressure on their wrists often causes median nerve compression, also known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Those affected experience tingling, numbness, and weakness in one or both hands and can sometimes require surgery.
To summarise, employees’ physical comfort and mental well-being can directly affect their health and performance. Employers should, therefore, consider this when booking an occupational hygiene inspection. The Department of Labour has approved IOH Solutions to provide workplace ergonomics services. You can contact us with your enquiries.