Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environment and modifying the work to fit the worker, not the other way around. The goal as an employer is to optimize an environment to eliminate discomfort and risk of injury due to work. A workplace ergonomics assessment and improvement process removes risk factors that can lead to injury and allows for improved performance and productivity.
Potential Ergonomic Hazards and Solutions
Awkward postures, bending, heavy lifting, poor lighting, and repetitive tasks are all risk factors that can have a significant impact on workplace productivity, absenteeism, and healthcare costs. In the office alone, there are many potential ergonomic hazards lurking.
Poor posture often goes unnoticed. When an employee is constantly leaning or slouching at their desk, an uneven pressure is put on their spine, increasing the risk of spinal dysfunction, premature joint degeneration, nerve pinching, and chronic back pain. Likewise, bending, looking down at the monitor, overreaching to operate the mouse, or twisting can push joints past their normal range of motion, making an employee more susceptible to ergonomic injury. Practicing a neutral sitting posture can help balance and preserve the spine and any weight placed on it. Optimizing your employees’ workstations by properly adjusting the height of their chairs, desks, and monitors can minimize awkward postures and risk of injury.
One of the biggest silent killers at the workplace, and in general, is a sedentary lifestyle. Sitting in a chair for hours and hours causes a drop in metabolism, muscle atrophy, and increased cholesterol. Encouraging your employees to take frequent small breaks to get up, stretch, and move their body can greatly reduce their risk of developing health problems.
Insufficient lighting, glare, and improper color temperature can negatively impact an employee's vision, mood, and productivity. By arranging workspaces to allow for natural light, positioning chairs to reduce glare, optimizing screens with proper color contrast, and using filters or blue light glasses can eliminate poor lighting problems that can lead to headaches and the inability to complete tasks.
How to Proactively Protect Your Employees
Taking proactive steps to reduce ergonomic injury in the workplace can improve health outcomes, reduce costs, and increase productivity, which benefits employers and employees alike. Going beyond the standard assessment and addressing each individual’s health and productivity can make a positive impact and reduce stress-related injuries. Providing appropriate safety equipment, and implementing height adjustable workstations can ensure employees are working in a safe, comfortable posture.
It is important to consistently communicate and educate employees of the risks of ergonomic injury and remind them to adjust repetitive movements, take frequent breaks, use proper protective equipment, and avoid hazards. Introducing ergonomic equipment and other best practices into the workplace are only effective if employees are consistent and utilize them correctly.
Taking proactive steps to both prevent and mitigate ergonomic issues can preserve the health of your workforce and your bottom line. Implementing the aforementioned strategies and improving ergonomics in the workplace not only prevent new injuries from occurring, but can also support employees with existing health issues, improving productivity and costs. The doctors and staff at Trinity Occupational Health are happy to provide you with more information about ergonomics in the workplace and how to protect your employees and prevent injury.