There is a lot of talk these days about the importance of workplace safety.
Poorly designed workplaces lead to a number of health problems and injuries. It has negative effects on employees productivity and their morale.
Ergonomics is the answer to these problems.
In this post, we will take a look at what is workplace ergonomics in the workplace and how you can improve workplace ergonomics to avoid injuries and other health issues.
What is ergonomics in the workplace?
Ergonomics refers to the study of people in their working environment and aims to prevent muscle and soft tissue injuries in the workplace.
Ergonomic hazards in the workplace contribute to musculoskeletal concerns through postural stress from holding prolonged positions, chronic injury due to repetitive strain or movements, injuries sustained by force or vibration, and static overload injuries.
As a result, workers may experience both acute injury and chronic muscle and joint pain.
This is a significant issue in the field of Occupational Health and Safety as musculoskeletal disease is the most common concern among workers across industries, and these numbers are likely underreported.
As a result, ergonomic-related disease and injury contributes to major productivity losses due to work absence. In addition, musculoskeletal injuries contribute to quality-of-life concerns among workers and can therefore have wide-reaching implications for other health concerns as well as mental health.
Example of ergonomics at Workplace
There are a number of companies that have implemented ergonomics in the workplace with great success. One example is Google, who has been using ergonomics in the workplace for many years.
Google has implemented a number of ergonomic features in their offices, including adjustable desks and chairs, standing desks, and ergonomic keyboards and mice. They have also created a number of “wellness programs” to help employees stay healthy and productive.
Another company that has successfully implemented ergonomics in the workplace is Microsoft. Microsoft has been using ergonomics in their offices for over 20 years.
They offer a number of ergonomic features in their offices, including adjustable workstations, ergonomic keyboards and mice, and standing desks. They also offer a number of wellness programs, such as on-site massages and fitness classes.
Types of Ergonomics
There are three main types of ergonomics: physical, cognitive, and organizational.
It is concerned with the design of the work environment and how it can impact the worker’s physical body. This includes things like furniture design, workstation layout, and lighting.
It is concerned with the design of the work environment and how it can impact the worker’s cognitive abilities. This includes things like task design, information display, and decision-making processes.
Concerned with the design of the work environment and how it can impact the worker’s behavior. This includes things like work hours, breaks, and work-life balance. During designing a workstation, it’s important to consider all three types of ergonomics to ensure that work environment is comfortable and efficient for employees.
Benefits of ergonomics in the workplace
There are many benefits of ergonomics in the workplace. Some of the most important benefits include:
Employees working in proper ergonomic workplace are happier and more satisfied with their work. They are more productive and efficient. Ergonomic workplaces have been shown to increase worker productivity by up to 15%.
Ergonomic workplaces are typically safer workplaces because they reduce the risk of injuries. Proper ergonomics can help reduce the risk of workplace injuries by up to 50%.
Another benefit of ergonomic at workplace is that when health and safety of employees is ensured then they are less absent from the workplace. Ergonomic workplaces have been shown to reduce absenteeism by up to 20%.
Ergonomics can improve the quality of life for employees by reducing stress and improving comfort. Employees who work in ergonomic workplaces have been shown to have increased morale and satisfaction with their job.
Organizations can reduce their costs by implementing ergonomics. Workplaces that implement ergonomics often see reduced costs associated with workers’ compensation, absenteeism, and turnover.
Better public image
Companies with ergonomic workplaces often have a better public image and more attractive to potential customers and employees.
Common myths about ergonomics
Myths about ergonomics abound. Some of the most common myths include:
1. Ergonomics is only for office workers
This is not true. Ergonomics can be beneficial for any type of worker, in any type of workplace.
2. Ergonomics is only about furniture
Furniture is just one aspect of ergonomics. Ergonomics also includes things like workstation design, lighting, and tool selection.
3. Ergonomics is only about preventing injuries
While ergonomics can help prevent injuries, it is also about improving worker comfort and productivity.
4. Ergonomics is expensive
While some ergonomic products can be expensive, there are many low-cost or no-cost ergonomic solutions available.
5. Ergonomics is only for large businesses
Ergonomics can be beneficial for businesses of all sizes.
6. Ergonomics is only for new buildings
Ergonomics can be implemented in any type of building, regardless of age.
7. Ergonomics is only for businesses in certain industries
Ergonomics can be beneficial for businesses in any industry.
8. Ergonomics is only for men
Ergonomics is beneficial for both men and women.
How to Improve Ergonomics in the Workplace
There are a number of ways to improve ergonomics in the workplace. Some of the most important tips include:
1. Formulate an ergonomics policy
The first step towards ensuring ergonomics in the workplace is to have an ergonomics policy. This policy defines the purpose of ergonomic workplace and what would be parameters for a safe and health workplace.
One of the important features of this policy is that a dedicated section or team is tasked with enforcing ergonomics in the workplace. This team identify gaps and ensure that proper equipment, furniture, and tools are being used by employees.
2. Invest in ergonomic furniture
Investing in ergonomic furniture is an important step in creating an ergonomic workplace. Ergonomic furniture is designed to reduce the risk of injuries and musculoskeletal problems, joint pain, back issues, neck pains, arthritis, restricted organs and poor blood pressure.
The ergonomic furniture should support natural S posture of the spine rather than forcing it into a C shape. That furniture should be easily adjusted to accommodate a diverse range of people. While designing that furniture, we should give preference to usability instead of aesthetic.
3. Implement proper lighting
Proper lighting can help improve worker comfort and reduce the risk of eye strain. It is very common to see employees working in harsh fluorescent lighting and many a times workplaces are dimly lit. This is against the principle of ergonomics.
Proper lightning does not necessarily mean that there is more lighting in the workplace. Infact it is about finding optimum way to place light, source of light and use natural light as well.
4. Improve environment of workplace
Environment contributes to friendly ergonomics in the workplace. One of the essential aspects of environment is temperature of workplace. Optimum level of temperature leads to increased productivity and efficiency of employees.
Heat stress in the workplace causes heat stroke, dehydration and many other diseases. Similarly colder temperature should also be avoided because it negatively affects health of workers and their productivity.
5. Keep workstations clean and organized
A clean and organized workstation can help reduce the risk of injuries and improve worker productivity. Besides that, a clean workstation reflects a clear mind and by minimizing the clutter, one can work more efficiently. That is an important aspect of cognitive ergonomics.
There should be proper cleaning equipment provided to each of workstation. It could be a simple microfiber cloth and a separate cleaning cloth for computer, laptop, phone and keyboard.
6. Provide training
Providing employees with ergonomics training can help them understand what is ergonomics in the workplace and how to properly use ergonomic tools and equipment. Such a training may focus on principles of ergonomics and its application in the workplace.
But more importantly training must cover good ergonomics practices, the tasks which may lead to injury, symptoms of musculoskeletal disease and how to report work related injuries.
7. Conduct regular ergonomic assessments
Conducting regular ergonomic assessments can help identify potential hazards in the workplace. And corrective actions can be taken based on findings of such assessments.
The common steps of conducting ergonomic assessment include: review of existing data and findings of the past assessment if it is conducted, physical observation of workplace, interviews of employees to get their feedback and assess their knowledge of workplace ergonomics, analysis of data, findings and recommendation.
Many of employees are not familiar with what is ergonomics in the workplace. They need to be educated about benefits and hazards of ergonomics. Ergonomic workplaces improve not only health of employees but also boost their productivity and morale. That’s the reason to invest in formulating a policy; providing furniture, tools and equipment that improve ergonomics; and conducting regular audits or assessments to identify gaps and take corrective actions to implement proper ergonomics standards in the workplace.