Workplace ergonomics is getting a lot of nationwide attention in response to a sharp increase in incidents of repetitive-strain injuries resulting in musculoskeletal disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Occupational diseases often mean repeated surgery, intractable pain, inability to work, time off for the affected employee and, ultimately, higher costs for the employer.
Below are four steps a company can take to address this growing problem.
Review tasks for risk factors: The first step to correcting problems is to understand the key workplace ergonomic risk factors, and review work tasks in your operation to see which ones apply. This can make a tremendous difference, since occupational safety professionals estimate that reducing physical stresses could eliminate as much as half the serious injuries that happen each year.
Control risk factors with engineering and administrative controls, and personal equipment, where it is effective: Engineering controls to improve ergonomic risks may include changing the way parts and materials are transported, or changing the process to reduce how workers are exposed to risk factors.
Understand how to make the work space work ergonomically: With any task, selecting the proper tool is crucial. The key is to understand the work process and employee’s safety needs. After identifying the likely risk factors in an operation, develop a safer work environment by carefully selecting the tools and work stations workers will use.
Use work station design principles to improve ergonomics: The following strategies typically yield safe work environments: make the work station adjustable, locate materials to reduce twisting, avoid static loads and fixed work postures, set the work surface to the particular task, provide adjustable chairs, allow workers to alternate between standing and sitting, support the limbs, use gravity, design for proper movements, consider computer monitors, provide simple dials and displays, and consider overall environmental conditions.
Jim, according to industrial saftey standards the employer has to appoint enough number of saftey officers for assessing various risk factors at work place and to make sure about necessary steps and precautions. But if we are looking to our industries, the number of saftey officers is very minimal and in some industries it's almost null. Then how can they ensure the saftey of employees at various working environments?
These are good steps to take, Jim, and definitely much needed. I don't work in an office environment anymore, but when I did I don't think enough attention was paid to ergonomics. Though I don't have serious physical ailments, I do have some minor complaints from being hunched over a computer for years that I think a little consideration to ergonomics might have prevented. Thanks for shining light on the problem again.
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