Ergonomics is the study of how workers perform their work and how they interact with their workplace. Ergonomics aims at fitting the work environment to the worker; this includes designing equipment/devices to fit the worker and altering job tasks. If workers are exposed to ergonomic hazards, it could lead to the onset of work–related musculoskeletal disorders (WMSDs).
It is important that each worker feels comfortable within their work environment. Each individual has different preferences; what is comfortable to one worker may not be comfortable to another worker. It is important to adjust each work station or task according to each worker, if possible.
WMSDs are an injury or disorder of the musculoskeletal system due to work–related tasks. The musculoskeletal system is composed of a system that give humans the ability to move through the use of bones, tendons, tendon sheaths, ligaments, bursa, blood vessels, joints, intervertebral discs, etc.
Common work-related musculoskeletal disorders include:
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Muscle/Tendon Strain
- Trigger Finger/Thumb
Every workplace has the potential to pose ergonomic hazards. Some hazards can be controlled while others can’t because it is inherent to the nature of the job. The following are examples of some ergonomic hazards:
- Office design
- Awkward posture (i.e. over bending, overreaching etc.)
- Repetitive motions (i.e. working on an assembly line)
- Exerting physical force beyond the worker’s capabilities
The following are some examples of controls for ergonomic hazards:
- Redesign the work station to be ergonomic
- Job rotation
- Take short, frequent breaks to stretch
- Employer-authorized changes in the workplace
- Train workers on ergonomics and how to identify the development of musculoskeletal disorders
- Train workers on proper manual material handling techniques
- Use tools/devices to move heavy objects instead of manually moving them (i.e. forklift)
- Use personal protective equipment (i.e. anti-vibration gloves, anti-fatigue insoles)