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The Role of Ergonomics in Preventing Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders
Working on your feet for long periods of time, performing repetitive motions, and working sitting down for extended lengths of time can all be harmful to your health. Employees who are subjected to cramped conditions, uncomfortable chairs, or jobs that require them to do something over and over again physically are all subject to work-related problems such as WMSDs, or work related musculoskeletal disorders. Ergonomics is the science of ensuring that workers are able to sit or stand in a way that will help promote healthy posture and prevent any work-related health problems. Ergonomic design ensures that skeletal injuries and other back and leg related problems have a much more minimal risk to the employee. People who work in many different fields can benefit from ergonomically designed furniture and other things. Some examples of people who should be aware of ergonomics include those working in the health care field, office workers, transportation, and manufacturing, to name a few.
What is Ergonomics?
The concept of ergonomics was designed to help identify and prevent work related issues, primarily back and leg pain, which can sometimes lead to chronic disorders or even permanent disability. The idea of ergonomics first came about in the late 19th century, when it was realized that workers could be more productive if they were to perform their job in smaller, even increment instead of large heavy loads. As time went on, other aspects of ergonomics were developed, such as designing furniture that is much more posture and back friendly to the body as it sits in one position for long periods of time. Around World War II, the government discovered ways to help ensure people were following the correct protocol to prevent injury and harm. Ergonomically approved footwear is another example, which helps workers who are on their feet better handle the stress and strain that it requires. Even furniture can be designed especially for people to ensure they maintain a comfortable and correct position throughout their work day.
Millions of people suffer from work related musculoskeletal disorders. These disorders can cause several different problems such as back pain, joint pain, headaches, neck strain, and many other problems. In many instances, employees sue their employer because of the harm they suffer due to the conditions they deal with day in and day out at their job. The reason people experience pain and muscle or skeletal related problems is because the body cannot endure too much strain for long periods of time. If someone is working in a position where they are constantly experiencing pressure put on the back, knees, or neck, they may end up with permanent damage to their body. This is why ergonomics are so important.
- Chair Adjustments – This helpful article explains how to sit properly and adjust your chair, so that you remain in an ergonomically correct position.
- What Is Ergonomics? – The basics of ergonomics, and what it means to the office worker.
- Ergonomics Guide – Some information about ergonomics and how to set up your workstation properly.
- History and Background – The definition of ergonomics and how it came about.
How Serious are WMSD's?
Work related injuries and chronic pain can become a serious problem for hundreds of thousands of Americans. The cost incurred from WMSD's can be quite high. Time lost from work is the first issue that arises, but medical related expenses and potential surgery are other financial burdens that many experience, as well as the need for prescription medication. People may have to live with constant, chronic pain, or can have more serious problems such as permanent nerve damage. Over 350,000 working adults file for some kind of work related injury compensation each year. Over 50% of women and 31% of men complain of work related headaches, while approximately 96% of all complaints overall are back related. People who move repeatedly in the same motion, and people who sit in the same position for a long time each day often have to see a chiropractor or physician on a fairly regular basis, so they can keep their work related pain at bay.
- WMSD Information – This website explains what WMSD's are, and how they can happen to people in certain areas of expertise.
- Sonographers and WMSD – An article that gives a good example of how certain professions can experience WMSD's and what can be done about it.
- Preventing Disability – Helpful information on how to prevent work-related disability, with a focus on back pain.
What Can be Done to Prevent WMSD's?
The best deterrent for employees is to educate themselves, and understand the basics of ergonomics. Many governmental agencies including the CDC and OSHA have special programs designed to teach employers and employees about the importance of ergonomics. Having a solid grasp on how to sit properly, and how to use the proper office furniture and tools can help go a long way to preventing WMSD's. Simple steps like bringing your work surface up a few inches, purchasing chairs that support the back and legs, and using a foot stool when sitting down for long periods of time can all help to keep the body in its proper position, and prevent muscle or skeletal damage. Ergonomic programs can help assess a place of business' ergonomic challenges, and help employees to have a more comfortable environment in which to work.
- Study on WMSD's – Informative study that discloses statistical information and facts on work related and repetitive motion.
- How to Treat – A bit of background on WMSD's and how to treat them.
- Factors & How to Identify – This site explains what can cause WMSD's and how workers can identify them.
- Ergonomic Assessments – A few tips and information about analyzing your workplace to ensure it is ergonomically correct.
- Preventing WMSD's – Article that explains how some places and organizations are working to prevent work-related MSD's.
- Resources – A comprehensive list of resources designed to help workplaces prevent WMSD's and provide education to employees.
- Practices for Prevention – What can be done to help keep people from experiencing musculoskeletal problems from their jobs.
- Guidelines – More information about WMSD's as well as some prevention guidelines.
- OSHA Ergonomics – Programs and rules set forth by OSHA.
- Proactive Ergonomics – Things every employer can do to encourage ergonomics, from NIOSH.
- Office Ergonomics – A plan for businesses to follow, from NYC. These suggestions can be used and implemented by any company within the US.
Health & Safety Ergonomics – Put in place by UC Berkeley, this easy to understand plan is designed to promote health and safety in the workplace.
- Program Example – An example of a positive, proactive ergonomics program that can help employees prevent work related pain.
Ergonomic Evaluation Form (pdf)
Ergonomic Training (pdf)
OSHA Ergonomics (external link)
4/19/2013 1:17:47 PM
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