Ergonomic solutions are not one-size-fits-all. People come in different sizes and shapes. Proper ergonomics for one person may not fit someone else. Effective ergonomic solutions in healthcare will be very different from solutions in an industrial setting. So what is “essential” depends on your industry, workplace environment and specific jobs your employees perform.
What IS universally understood is that, as Trisha Allenbrand stated in a WorkDesign Magazine blog post, "Musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) - related injuries cost employees $20 billion in workman’s compensation, medical expenses and decreased productivity." Ouch. One more reason to take another look at ergonomic solutions for your workplace. Tweet this stat.
What Do Ergonomic Solutions Look Like?
They are modifications you make to the workplace. They may alter the physical environment. Or they may teach employees to move properly work within their work environment. Ergonomic solutions can affect an entire group of workers. Or they can accommodate just one individual. The goal is to help people go about their daily tasks without putting undue strain on their bodies.
In designing ergonomic solutions, there are three essential considerations:
Proper postural alignment
Consider an office worker at a desk. When seated, the hip and torso should form a 90o angle. Your employee should be able to place their feet flat on the floor. But what if the chair is too high or too low? That’s when ergonomic solutions come into play. There are effective options to fit any budget. In fact, many essential solutions are free.
If the chair is too high, you could invest in an expensive new high-tech chair. Or you could give your employee a footrest that is just the right height. That’s less costly. Or your employee could place a couple of phone books on the floor under their feet. No cost, just as effective
Employees reach for tools and other items. Sometimes these movements are repetitive. Office workers use keyboards and monitors. Housekeepers and warehouse workers lift and carry items that may be bulky and/or heavy. Performing these movements in the wrong way is an invitation to injury. Ergonomic modifications put things within safe reach – at the proper height or distance. Items used most often go in the most accessible “near-reach zone."
How Can You Find Appropriate Ergonomic Solutions?
First you have to identify potential problems before they cause on-the-job injuries. That can involve:
Awareness is essential. Supervisors and all employees need to know why a posture or movement is wrong. They need to know what can happen as a result. Most of us don’t think about things from this point of view.
Building awareness promotes behavior modification. When people know how to think “ergonomically,” they are more aware of how they perform their work. For example, desk chairs often have arm rests. We love them, because we can lean on them. But in reality this encourages poor posture. So the result is greater risk of strain and injury instead of greater comfort.
One excellent way to encourage behavior modification is by creating an injury prevention program. Training sessions, workshops and other employee education efforts can be your first line of defense. New and existing employees can be trained individually how to perform their work in a safe manner.
Putting essential ergonomic solutions in place is not just a matter of implementing a few specific changes. It’s a commitment to safer workspaces. It’s an ongoing effort based on company policy. A focus on ergonomics brings multiple benefits. Employees can work in an environment that is more comfortable and efficient. They are more productive. Quality is higher because people can do their job the right way, all the time. And reducing the risk of injury lowers workers’ comp claims and costs.
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