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Industrial Ergonomicsby Susan McElrath
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You've probably heard the term "ergonomics"; before. It's a relatively new field of study concerning how a person interacts with the working environment. ";Ergonomics"; is a broad field, but the basic goal of an ergonomics program is injury prevention. This injury prevention is accomplished by fitting the job to the worker instead of fitting the worker to the job. This week's Tail Gate Safety Topic takes a look at ergonomic concerns in the workplace, and what you can do to prevent injuries caused by poor ergonomics. Many of the suggestions in this topic can be adapted for use outside the workplace, helping you to prevent injuries at home.
Injuries arising from poor ergonomic conditions typically involve the bones, muscles, joints, tendons, and nerves. Symptoms of these injuries are:
The good news is that ergonomic problems can usually be solved by simple, common-sense solutions. Injuries that are caused by awkward posture can be prevented by improving your position while you work. Any time you must twist your body, work overhead, kneel, bend over, or squat you increase your risk of an injury. Repetition of these movements further increases your chance of injury.
Occasional awkward posture is probably no cause for alarm, but if you find yourself repeatedly bending, stretching, and twisting, making some simple adjustments to the work environment can solve the problem of awkward posture. Your workstation may need some adjustment, or the materials you use in performing your job may need to be re-arranged to eliminate bending, twisting, and other awkward movements. Store frequently-used materials in front of you at waist height. Heavier objects should not be placed overhead but they don't have to be on the floor, either. Place them at a level so they are easier to lift. Use of mechanical lifting equipment may also be possible.
Repetitive motion tasks can also lead to injuries. If your job requires you to make the same motions repeatedly, consider learning the correct posture for the job. Check with your company's safety department for ideas on reducing injury from repetitive motion tasks. You may find that there is equipment available to use which will reduce your chance of injury. However, don't depend only on a back or wrist brace to protect you. Your best prevention is to maintain the correct position for the task, take recommended breaks, and do any recommended exercises to help prevent injury.
Some other causes of ergonomic injuries are:
This week's Tail Gate Safety Topic has discussed the symptoms and causes of injuries caused by poor ergonomics. Being aware of the causes of injuries is the first step in preventing them. As you work, take a look around you at the situations which could cause an injury and take steps to correct them. Fitting the job to the person is not a difficult thing to do, and it will help keep you working injury-free for a long time to come!