As a human, you know that we can’t work the same way that machines do—we need breaks, we need to stretch, and our eyes get tired from staring at computer screens all day.
Over the next few blog posts, we’ll explore ergonomic risk factors, learn prevention methods, and discuss the best ways that YOU can create a work environment that supports your body.
What's Your Work Environment Like?
In simple terms, ergonomics can help to fit a job to a person.
While this may seem like a concept that should naturally fall into place, all too often people become an afterthought when companies shift their focus to the bottom line, instead of their workers.
Ironically, when companies are ignoring employees’ needs in favor of economic outcomes, the bottom line actually suffers. This is because poor ergonomic practices can result in injuries (and worker's compensation), as well as lower levels of productivity.
Take some time to consider how your company culture considers employees when designing jobs. Are there any ergonomic-related suggestions or recommendations that you’ve been told to partake in as you go through your day?
Perhaps you might think of it this way, has anyone in a position of power told you to be careful when carrying out daily activities so that you don’t hurt yourself?
Common Injuries Related To Ergonomics
Ergonomic workplace injury represents 33% of all worker injuries, which accounts for a staggering $15 to $20 billion annually that businesses must absorb.
Here are some of the most common injuries:
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS) is a disorder that causes pain and weakness in the hand and wrist. This disorder affects nerves, not muscles, and results in an average time away from work of 27 days, which is the second-longest among primary disabling conditions. Furthermore, nearly 50% of employees diagnosed with CTS switch jobs within 30 months of being diagnosed, showing the drastic impact this injury can have on the long-term well-being of employees.
Tendinitis is an inflammation or irritation of a tendon, a thick cord that attaches skeletal bones to muscles. This injury has multiple degrees of severity, from minor inflammation to severe forms, which can keep employees out from a few weeks to several months. As tendons age, they become more vulnerable to injury, and this is why adults aged forty and older are more at risk of developing tendinitis.
Lower Back Injuries results in more than $100 billion in annual expenses, two-thirds of which are due to decreased wages and productivity.
The three primary ergonomic risk factors that cause musculoskeletal disorders are awkward posture, high force, or extended frequency. Combinations of postures, forces, and frequencies increase the chance of developing a musculoskeletal disorder.
Consider what regular tasks you (or your employees) might perform that could lead to these injuries. If you have questions, reach out at email@example.com
Identify Your Challenges And Risks
Several of you have reached out to me about how to identify ergonomic challenges in the workplace, especially when it comes to other people.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you observe:
Consider that not everybody is built the same way. Height, weight, and other factors play into a person’s ability to reach, lift, and perform their duties. With this in mind, take into account the height of your desks, the size of your tools, and other issues that might come up.
Do you see most people slouching as they work? Do they not take breaks from staring at the computer screen for hours at a time? Are those who might otherwise work through breaks encouraged to take some time to reboot?
The human body is incredibly complex, and will not perform the same way that a machine will. Keep that in mind when considering how to design your workplace to better benefit the people working in it.
Observe your workspace (whether it’s a team or just yourself in a coffee shop), and list five things you notice about your physical state throughout your workday.