The majority of people who have heard of ergonomics assume it has to do with sitting or with the layout of automotive controls and instrumentation, but it actually encompasses much more. Anything that involves humans, including public transportation, buildings, living quarters, workplaces, products, and systems, can be designed or set up according to ergonomic principles to make it more user-friendly.
To ensure that we are as comfortable as possible at work, ergonomics is crucial. This indicates that we are employing the proper tools and equipment and that our workspace is ergonomic and comfortable.
There are a few things that we can do to make sure that we are getting it right:
1. Reduce Excessive Force
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to reducing excessive force in the workplace, as the best way to reduce the use of force depends on the individual and their specific job duties. However, there are some key strategies that can be adopted to help reduce the use of force, regardless of the position or job.
- Lift objects close to the body
- Use good coupling or grip when lifting objects
Principles of lifting
- Lift with the legs and keep the load close to the body
- Load to be lifted should be below 50% of their personal strength limits
- Minimise twisting with a load
- Exercise care in slippery or cluttered areas
- The area should be clear of obstacles
- Push the load rather than pull (improves visibility ahead)
- Use shoes that provide a good grip
- When starting to push, brace one foot and use the back, not the hands and arms
- Pushing/pulling is easier when the cart handles are about hip height
Use mechanical aids
The use of mechanical aid is recommended to reduce the risk of injuries.
2. Reduce Excessive Motion or Movement
The human body is designed to move in a way that is most efficient and comfortable. Understanding how the body moves and how excessive motion or movement causes physical and emotional stress will help us in our work. There are several ways to reduce excessive motion or movement. One approach is to use ergonomic devices and tools to reduce stress on the body. Another approach is to change the way that you move.
- Let the tool do the work
3. Maintain a neutral posture
It is important to always try to maintain a neutral posture while working. When in a neutral posture, the muscle and joints are in the least stressed situation. It will also reduce the compression of nerves and vessels. This will help to improve your circulation and reduce the risk of injury.
When in the neutral position, the muscles and joints are the least stressed and the nerves and vessels are not compressed as compared to the other positions of the hands and upper limbs.
It is important to always:
- keep the back straight
- keep the neck upright
Even though standing workstations may reduce the load on the back, they will increase stress on the knee and feet. So it is important to ensure that when we are advising on any intervention to reduce ergonomic hazards, we need to ensure that it will not create new hazards.
4. Work at Proper Heights
When it comes to ergonomic work, proper heights are key. Proper ergonomic work heights can help improve your productivity and musculoskeletal diseases and stress. It is important to ensure that your main working area is at eye level.
You can practice the following when working at a computer workstation:
- Work at elbow height (sitting or standing workstations)
- The screen is placed at eye level.
5. Keep Everything Within Easy Reach
With ergonomic design in mind, it’s important to make sure everything is within easy reach. This includes both the tools and the materials you’re working with. The things that you need to access regularly should be placed close to you without having to stretch your arms (Primary Work Zone) and things that are not commonly used can be placed further away (Secondary Work Zone).
6. Minimise Fatigue and Static Load
Another important point is to minimise fatigue and static load while working. Static load or static posture are conditions where the limbs are kept in the same position for a prolonged period of time. In the static load and posture, there will be a discrepancy between the blood supply and the blood needed for the proper profusion of the limbs.
7. Minimise Pressure Points
Pressure points or contact stress reduces blood flow and compresses the nerves which interfere with nerve conduction. A decrease in blood flow will lead to fatigue of the limb and compression of the nerve will lead to pain. If the condition is prolonged then it may lead to permanent musculoskeletal conditions. It is important to reduce contact stress.
8. Provide Proper Clearance
It is important to ensure that there is enough clearance so that the worker will not accidentally knock into objects and that the lower limb has enough space to move.
When moving objects with a trolley, ensure to provide visual clearance.
9. Maintain a Comfortable Environment
It is important to maintain a comfortable environment while at work. This includes proper lighting, minimising noise and adequate ventilation, and at least 4-6 air changes per hour (ACH) in an office environment.
- provide adequate lighting
- avoid glare
- use task lighting when needed
The amount of lighting required for work depends on the type of work being performed. In a general workspace where visual tasks are only occasionally performed the amount of light can be between 100-200 Lux (Lumens per square metre). For normal office works the lighting requirement is between 300 Lux for filing and 750 Lux for technical drawing. The amount of lighting increase with the increased need for detail work. For example performance of very prolonged and exacting visual tasks can be between 5000 and 10,000 Lux.
10. Move, Exercise, and Stretch
No matter how good a piece of equipment or the environment has been ergonomically designed to fit an individual. It is important to note that prolonged work in the same position will increase health and safety risks. It is important to always move. stretch and exercise.
Written by Victor Hoe