Optimal Ergonomic Practices

Optimal Ergonomic Practices

Ergonomics is a term that has come into our everyday business vocabulary. It is simply a word to describe how we can design work to best fit the worker. This could be changing the design of a saw handle to better fit the shape of a hand. It could be rearranging a work station to better fit the workflow. Implementing ergonomic tools and practices can be a way to put less stress on the worker and more support in your mechanics.

 

Postures

Posture should always be the starting point for best ergonomic practice. Good posture means that the body’s joints are naturally aligned and muscles are at their resting length (not stretched).

  • When standing or sitting, the back should retain its natural “S” curve. When standing it is helpful to put one foot up on a footrest to maintain the natural alignment. When sitting, make sure you have good lumbar support and use the support of your chair to keep from slouching.
  • The wrists should remain in a neutral posture when working with your hands. This applies whether you are typing or using hand tools. When the wrists are in a neutral posture they are aligned with the forearm - the same way they would look if you were holding the steering wheel of your car.
  • The neck has an “S” curve, just as the back does. To maintain appropriate neck posture, the head should be facing forward rather than down or up. A good way to achieve this is to keep work at eye level, rather than turning the neck. This can be achieved by using supports to lift equipment or tools when needed.

Force and Lifting

Use of excessive force can cause fatigue or injury to your body. Identify instances in your workflow where force needs to be applied and find ways to reduce or eliminate it.

  • Minimize the amount of weight that needs to be lifted or carried. This can be done by lifting in smaller loads, or by ensuring that the items being lifted (for example, boxes) have appropriate handles. Using a hoist or a lift instead of lifting manually is the ideal ergonomic solution to lifting strain.
  • When lifting with the body, keep the object closer to the body to reduce strain. The farther the object is held from the body, the more work the lower back must do to compensate.
  • Excessive pulling (for example, carts) causes fatigue to the back as well. Make sure the wheels on the cart are the correct size for the weight, size and shape of the object being pulled. There should be sufficient grips on the pulled item as well.

Grip and Tools

Grip type and pressure vary depending on the job you are doing. A pinch grip is when you are holding something between the fingers, like a pencil or a key. A power grip is holding an object between the fingers and palm, like a drill or a fishing rod. Matching the right grip and posture to the right tool can help make the executing of a job more ergonomically sound.

  • When selecting tools, choose those that allow a natural posture when in use. For example, when choosing a hand drill, the better choice would be one with a handle that allows the wrist to remain parallel to the bit, rather than one that is perpendicular or angled.
  • Opt for tools with built-in features that reduce the amount of force required from the user. An example would be a pair of shears or pliers with a built in spring that opens to tool handles.
  • Keep the user in mind when selecting hand tools. The grip of the tool, even if it just a staple remover, should fit appropriately for the person using it.

Static Load

Static Load is when a person must hold the same position for a long time. This causes muscle fatigue and discomfort. Repeated instances of static load can have long-term effects; for example, carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by repetition of the same movement of the wrist.

  • See where fixtures can be added to hold items rather than using your hands. For example, gripping an item in a bench vice in order for it to be repaired or manipulated.
  • Change the orientation of your work area to avoid awkward postures like reaching over your head.
  • Standing for a long time creates static load on your legs. Having a footrest that enables you to change position can reduce the pressure on your legs. Moving your legs between footrest and floor reduces the static load inherent in long periods of being on your feet.

Workstation Compliance

Having a poorly-designed workstation can result in strain and discomfort. This is true whether you are working in an office, a hospital, on the manufacturing floor, or even outside. Making small changes to the workspace can relieve many tension-causing activities and unnecessary exertions.

  • Lighting is a substantial element in an ergonomic workspace. Insufficient light puts a strain on the eyes and frequently the neck due to leaning to see more clearly. On the other hand, glare can be a significant issue as well. When assessing lighting, check to make sure there is enough light to see the details of the work being performed without being overly bright. Also, check for shadow-casting, both of objects and the worker herself.
  • Noise can adversely affect the work environment. Standard hearing protection is essential in areas with large machines that produce a lot of excess commotion. Also be aware of noise in areas that are less obvious, for example near large printers, shredders, or fans.
  • Minimize pressure points. Does your wrist lean on the corner of a desk? Do your tools need cushioned grips? Do your legs squeeze up against the table? These are all items putting pressure on your body. Usually simple fixes, like extra cushioning, can relieve pressure points in the work station.

Knowing Workplace Ergonomics

Ergonomic practices are mostly about implementing easy fixes to make the workplace less taxing on your body. By being able to identify areas where there is extra range of motion, there is too much pressure on the body, or there is a repetition of motion, simple ergonomic fixes can make your workplace more comfortable for you and your employees.

Pub. 07/2016

Sources

http://www.danmacleod.com/ErgoForYou/10_principles_of_ergonomics.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/mining/UserFiles/works/pdfs/2011-191.pdf

http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/carpal-tunnel/carpal-tunnel-syndrome-cause

The product statements contained herein are intended for informational purposes only. Such product statements do not constitute a product recommendation or representation as to the appropriateness for a specific application or use. W. W. Grainger, Inc. does not guarantee the result of product operation or assume any liability for personal injury or property damage resulting from the use of such products.