Last week, this blog spoke about the importance of safe lifting techniques to keep workers productive. Another way to keep employees from being injured from the tasks they do is through the use of properly designed work stations. By ensuring that a work station is set up so that a worker does not have to twist or contort their body into an unnatural position or stay bent over for prolonged periods of time to do their work, a company can keep their workers working. That is why we say ergonomics can help keep employees productive.
One of my favourite examples of ergonomics in the workplace are the mats that are used in retail and manufacturing locations for workers to stand on. Standing can put a strain on the muscles in the legs, hips back and neck, which have to tense in order to maintain posture. The mats are used, in conjunction with proper footwear, to ease the pressure that is placed on these muscles. I see a lot of interest on some websites about the value of standing desks, because of the health risks that sitting can put on the body. At no point do they talk about the problems that standing can have. If a mat is not reasonably practicable in a given situation, then inserts for shoes are available that have the same effect as a mat.
Work Station Design
Work station design is important to workers as well. A work station should be designed so that a worker does not have to be bent over while doing their work. I remember at one job I had, all I was doing was changing a circuit board on an emergency light, but because I couldn’t get to the work bench (the sprinkler fitters left a 12” pipe in front of it) I had to work at a desk while bent over. This put a great deal of strain on my back. The best height for handiwork is 50mm-100mm below elbow level, depending on the type of work that is being done. Adjustable work stations or tables would allow workers to adjust the work station to meet the needs of their height or work.
Tool selection can also contribute to helping improve the ergonomic function of work stations. We can see this is hammers and other tools that have handles designed for gripping and ease of use. Rakes and shovels also have special designs to reduce the amount of pressure it places on the back and joints. Even by choosing the right power tool so that the pressure required to use the tools is kept at a minimum, such as a cutter that has the switch over the blade instead of at the rear.
By using these tips and other information, employers can use ergonomics to keep their employees productive. The reduction in stresses on the body will mean fewer musculo skeletal injuries, which will also reduce lost time over the long term. Remember, efficiency on the job mean more than the number of tasks completed, but also the reduced strain on the body that allows workers to complete those jobs.