The Important Role of Workplace Ergonomics in Modern Times
The health and safety of employees whilst at work only became a legal issue in most countries during the latter years of the twentieth century. Facing the risk of injuries and illnesses like silicosis and lead poisoning was once accepted as necessary to secure an income. However, government legislation has since placed the responsibility for providing a safe working environment on the employer. Initially, the focus was solely on identifying and mitigating the potential effects of physical, chemical, and biological hazards. More recently, workplace ergonomics and its role in maintaining health and safety have been receiving more attention.
The Role of Workplace Ergonomics
One tends to think of those engaged in physical work as exposed to the highest risk of injury. However, the dangers to employees who spend most of their day seated at a desk can be equally significant in practice. Without suitable precautions, even sedentary workers could be at risk of developing musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). This type of injury may take longer to become evident in such cases. Nevertheless, its potential consequences remain a cause for concern. The role of workplace ergonomics is to identify any working conditions and habits that could expose employees to the risk of an MSD and implement the means to eliminate them. So what precisely is a musculoskeletal disorder? Let’s examine some common examples.
Lower Back Injuries
Pain and stiffness in the lower back region are among the most common symptoms experienced by many employees. Often, they are the direct result of badly designed tasks, unsuitable working conditions, or poor operating practices. Workers who must lift heavy objects tend to be most at risk. However, workplace ergonomics specialists also note that failure to provide proper seating for desk workers can leave them susceptible to potentially serious back problems.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Often abbreviated as CTS, the condition commonly affects workers in several occupations, including carpenters, drivers, machine operators, and typists. It is characterised by pain and weakness in the wrist and results from repeated, continuous pressure on the median nerve, which runs from the forearm, via the carpal tunnel, to the hand. One can alleviate the discomfort with painkillers and hot compresses, and splints can help keep the wrists correctly aligned. However, some fundamental workplace ergonomic changes could help you avoid exposing staff to the risk of this debilitating injury.
Read more about Workplace Ergonomics Trends in 2022 here.
Other MSD Examples
Lateral epicondylitis or “tennis elbow” and tendinitis are other injuries that frequently result from unsuitable working conditions or procedures. While all the injuries described are treatable, recovery can often be lengthy. It may involve surgery, resulting in a prolonged absence from work at the employer’s expense. Therefore, it is in a company’s best interest to take whatever measure may be required to eliminate these risks by identifying them and applying the appropriate workplace ergonomic measures.
However, these are not tasks to be undertaken by a layperson. In practice, ensuring a company’s health and safety measures comply with the prevailing government guidelines requires the experience and expertise of an industrial hygiene specialist. IOH Solutions is certified by the Department of Labour as an approved inspection authority, offering services in Gauteng and the Western and Eastern Cape. Click here to learn more about workplace ergonomics and why it is essential for the well-being of your company and its employees.