By Mike Lampl, Ergonomics Technical Advisor
Did you know each October is National Ergonomics Month? The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society launched it in 2003 to help raise awareness about this important workplace safety topic each year.
According to the International Ergonomics Association, ergonomics (or human factors) is a scientific discipline concerned with understanding interactions among humans and other elements of a system.
Ergonomics professionals apply theory, principles, data and other methods to workplace design to optimize the well-being of workers and overall system performance.
In the workplace, ergonomics is balancing job demands with the capabilities of our greatest assets – our workers.
Why is it important?
The statistics below from Ohio in 2014* re-enforce the need for ergonomics in the workplace.
In that year:
- The most-frequent nature of injury was sprains, strains, tears (41.9 percent);
- The most-frequently injured body part was the back (17.3 percent);
- The most-frequent cause of injury was overexertion (33.5 percent).
Making ergonomic improvements helps prevent or eliminate injuries. This includes positioning work optimally or using appropriate tools or equipment to assist employees.
Ergonomics can also positively impact quality, productivity, workforce turnover, absenteeism and morale.
How to identify areas for improvement
Here are some tips to help identify areas for ergonomic improvement in your workplace. Observe your work areas and write down your observations.
Pay attention to:
- Homemade adaptations to accommodate personal preferences and needs;
- Job tasks that require forceful exertions (e.g., heavy lifting, pushing and pulling);
- Job tasks that require awkward postures (e.g., bent wrists, bent backs, etc.);
- Job tasks that require repetitive motions (e.g., working at a fast pace);
- Information on injuries that may relate to ergonomic conditions.
Ergonomics is not an overnight proposition. It is a continuous improvement process that minimizes or eliminates workplace risk factors.
What are workplace risk factors?
- Forceful exertions;
- Repetitive motions;
- Awkward postures;
- Mechanical pressure on soft tissue;
- Inadequate rest.
Many great organizations in Ohio are working with their employees to implement ergonomic improvements. Visit our ergonomics consulting page to find out how we can assist your business’ ergonomics efforts.
*Source: BWC Division of Safety & Hygiene research and statistics department and the Bureau of Labor Statistics