Understanding Ergonomics, Part II

Extreme Ergonomic Workstation

You don't need to resort to extreme measures to implement good ergonomic practices.

In “Understanding Ergonomics, Part I,” ergonomics was defined and the problem of a lack of ergonomics was discussed. In addition, the symptoms of repetitive strain injury were detailed along with the jobs at highest risk for such injuries. In this article, the benefits of and tips for implementing ergonomics along with creating a plan for assessing a space for ergonomic implementation will be explained. This article also discusses situations outside of the workplace that can benefit from implementing ergonomics.

Benefits of Implementing Ergonomics
Implementing ergonomics helps prevent repetitive strain injuries.  And as those injuries are reduced and in most cases eliminated or prevented altogether, additional benefits are seen. Those benefits include:

1.)    Increased Efficiency: Ergonomics allows workers to move at their most efficient level, which leads to workers who are healthier and pain-free. An efficient, healthy worker tends to produce better quality work.

2.)    Increased productivity: Efficient movement tasks leads to increased productivity. In fact, a 1986 study by the Army Corps of Engineers showed a 20.6% improvement in employee productivity one year after ergonomic furniture was installed.

3.)    Increased morale: Workers not dealing with headaches and sore muscles and especially with more severe repetitive strain issues and injuries caused by an uncomfortable working environment tend to be happier and their productivity naturally increases.

4.)    Increased work quality: As workers are more comfortable and able to work more efficiently, the quality of work increases as well.

5.)    Reduced turnover & absenteeism: Dan MacLeod, one of the most experienced professional ergonomists in North America notes that “one reason why workers are absent is that they are experiencing early stages of a musculoskeletal disorder.” He goes on to say that, “work that hurts doesn’t exactly encourage people to come every day.”

For more benefits of implementing ergonomics, see “How to Increase Profits with Ergonomics: 20 Ways to Cut Costs, plus One Way to Increase Revenues” by Dan MacLeod.

Tips for Maximizing Ergonomics
A variety of tips and techniques exist for maximizing ergonomics, and in most cases the best implementation strategy is not only job specific but specific to the individual as well. However, there are a few general tips that all individuals can consider, especially when beginning to implement ergonomics. The following tips provide a good stepping stone for working toward a larger and more comprehensive implementation of ergonomics.

1.)    Arrange Your Workspace: An ergonomic workspace is arranged to fit a worker’s body. In addition, tasks that are completed the most often should have supplies and equipment for that task within easy reach. Avoid reaching, twisting and poor posture on a regular basis.

2.)    Use Good Work Habits: Using variety in type of movements and tasks, employing good posture, and increasing efficiency through placement of supplies and equipment are all good work habits that will help increase the benefits of ergonomics.

3.)    Incorporate Regular Exercise & Stretching: Exercising the eyes as well as stretching the body regularly add to the benefits of ergonomics.

Ergonomics Assessments
Ergonomics does not have a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, a situation analysis (formal or informal) must be performed to determine what will be the most effective ergonomic approaches to implement.

For larger companies with deeper pockets, hiring an outside consultant to assess ergonomics in the workplace is a great option. For smaller companies and individuals, learning how to assess an environment for ergonomic adjustments can be extremely useful.  An assessment such as this ergonomics checklist to make the work environment more ergonomic can be an effective way for anyone, regardless of resources, to begin implementing positive ergonomic changes.

For both individuals and companies, checking out the industry-specific guidelines provided by OSHA and by the CDC can also prove helpful in implementing ergonomics in the workplace.

Ergonomics Outside of Work
Ergonomics is not something to be considered just for the workplace. Frequent travel as well as many tasks in the home can also benefit from ergonomics. Taking the time to consider “Business Traveling Ergonomic Tips” as well as “Home Ergonomics” can go a long way in making an individual healthier and happier in a more rounded way than just workplace ergonomics alone.

About Michael Eldridge

Michael Eldridge is the President and Founder of Safety Glasses USA, one of the web's largest providers of safety glasses and goggles. He's a US Marine Veteran who's particularly passionate about protective eyewear and helping people learn about vision safety. In his spare time he enjoys target shooting, fishing, camping with his family and watching Detroit Tigers baseball. You can follow Michael on Twitter @MikeEldridge73, Google or via the Safety Glasses USA Facebook Page.