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What is ‘ergonomics’?
The word ‘ergonomics’ comes from two Greek words ‘ergon’ – meaning work, and ‘nomos’ – meaning laws. Today, however, the word is used to describe the science of designing the job and the working environment to fit the worker, not forcing the worker to fit the job.
Ergonomics covers all aspects of a person’s job and working environment – from the physical stress work tasks may place on joints, muscles and nerves – to environmental factors that can affect hearing, vision and general comfort and wellbeing – and even emotional stress from excessive workloads, long hours or relationship difficulties with colleagues.
Physical stressors include repetitive movements such as those caused by keying or using a computer mouse. Other physical stressors involve tasks causing vibration such as using machinery, or tasks that strain the body e.g. working at a desk that is too high or in an uncomfortable office chair. Working in an awkward position, such as holding a telephone to the ear with the shoulder can also cause pain and physical disorders. Repetitive movements, vibration, excessive force and adopting awkward positions are frequently linked to Musculo-Skeletal Disorders (MSD’s).
Environmental stressors include issues such as indoor air quality and excessive noise. ‘Sick building syndrome’ with its accompanying headaches, congestion, fatigue and even skin rashes can result from poor air quality in a building or office. Excessive noise from heavy machinery or equipment can cause permanent hearing loss. Improper lighting can cause eyestrain and headaches, especially in conjunction with long-term computer monitor use.
Ergonomists contribute to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, environments and systems in order to make them compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations of people. Small modifications to working practices, posture and the working environment can make a big difference to the way workers feel at the end of each workday. An ergonomist can advise on all of these areas, to reduce the impact of physical and environmental stressors on the individual. Contact WorkWell to see how we can assist in setting up your workstation and office environment for your comfort and wellbeing.
The benefits of an ergonomic workstation
Many documented ergonomic studies show that a correctly set-up workstation environment has wide-ranging benefits to the individual and the workplace.
These benefits include:
- Decreased pain and discomfort levels
- Improved health and wellbeing
- Improved safety in the workplace
- Increased staff productivity levels
- Increased job satisfaction
- Improved morale and teamwork
- Increased work quality
- Lower absenteeism
- Lower staff turnover
- Lower workers’ compensation claims
- Higher compliance with corporate and Governmental Occupational Health and Safety regulations.
How can WorkWell help me?
WorkWell can work with you and your colleagues:
- To teach you how to set up your workstation and work correctly
- To assess individual staff who report (or who are at risk of developing) pain and discomfort at work
- To maximize the comfort and well being of ALL staff in your office workplace through individual ergonomic assessment
- To provide detailed ergonomic recommendations for you to implement
- To maximize productivity and output levels
- To teach healthy working practices including physical stretches, relaxation and stress management techniques through group education
- To minimize the effect of environmental issues and hazards in the workplace
- To assess workplace Occupational Health and Safety issues and implement recommendations
- To provide timely follow-up if required.
How is an ergonomic assessment conducted?
The ergonomic assessment is conducted at the individual’s own workstation. Each assessment usually takes between 45-60 minutes to complete.
A comprehensive ergonomic assessment comprises:
- A detailed review of over 30 aspects of the workstation (desktop layout, workstation furniture and use of all desktop equipment)
- Identification of medical and physical issues caused (or worsened) by current work practices e.g. eye strain, wrist, back or neck pain
- Analysis of seating, posture and ergonomics in performing regular work tasks
- Measurement of lighting and sound levels, air quality and environmental issues
- Practical, verbal and written advice; this may include:
– Making physical changes to the workstation set-up
– Prescribing specific stretches for physical wellbeing
– Provision of detailed handouts about correct workstation set-up and wellbeing at work
- A summary report including specific ergonomic recommendations for each staff member may be completed upon request. Recommendations for any new ergonomic equipment will be realistic, low-cost and locally sourced wherever possible.