Ergonomics is the science of designing a work station to best fit the stature, posture, and tasks of a particular employee, rather than the employee trying to fit into the confines of a work station. Industrial settings likely come to mind first when thinking of work injuries, but they are just as prevalent in office settings.
Office workers just sit all day, so how can they get injured?
The human body was not meant to sit all day. A sedentary work day puts employees at greater risk of injury when they do move, not to mention the strain that results from improper set up of the desk, computer and chair at their workstation.
The most common symptoms for office workers are back and neck pain, as well as shoulder and wrist discomfort. Diagnoses may include tendonitis of the wrist or elbow, carpal-tunnel syndrome, and other ailments.
The worst-case scenario would be a disability claim that involves temporary or permanent accommodations for the employee. For a data-entry worker or someone else who depends on working on a keyboard this is just not feasible. That’s when companies can turn to ergonomics for a solution.
Even if someone feels comfortable at their desk at first, a strain can develop one month or even three years after starting a job, and can end up being just as intense or more intense than a symptom that starts at the onset.
For others, an injury outside of work, e.g., at home or playing sports, can turn even a slightly uncomfortable workstation into a repetitive strain injury because it aggravates the primary injury and interferes with the healing process.
In office settings, an ergonomist can look at numerous factors such as:
The height of the person
Where the keyboard is located
The height of the computer monitor
The type and set up of the chair
In industrial settings, by far the most common issue is repetitive strain injuries, often in the upper arms, caused by repeating the same motion over and over again. Physical and psychological stress can also cause or worsen RSI symptoms.
Solutions for repetitive strain injuries can include:
Installing shelves to break the pattern of lifting or moving parts
Rotating the movement so that employees can pick up items from the left to the right and vice versa
Implementing a job rotation to use different muscle groups
Identifying the weight of the items and the amount of repetitions within the work space, and analyzing how to break out tasks or rotate the jobs without disrupting the work flow or production; for example, instead of spending two hours on the same task, it might mean the worker spends 10 minutes before switching to another movement
Recommending equipment to assist with lifting, automation of tasks, or adjusting of heights where tasks are performed
Paying attention to ergonomics before someone has an injury is an excellent preventative strategy that can keep employees working comfortably for the duration of their employment.
Fournier Health highly recommends that workplaces engage the services of an ergonomist to perform a “Physical Demands Analysis,” along with the identification of ergonomic hazards with solutions for controlling risks to minimize injuries to the employees.
*Culled from Fournier Disability and Health Management Solutions*