Ergonomics is defined as fitting the workplace to the worker and examining the interaction between the worker and his/her environment. Applying ergonomic principles can help reduce the risk of injuries or illnesses for employees working with computers, working in laboratories, and working at jobs requiring repetitive activities and heavy materials handling.
The goal of the University ergonomics program is to reduce or eliminate hazards that contribute to the development of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD). The program involves all employees whose job duties expose them to ergonomic risk factors.
The primary tools of USI's Ergonomic Program include symptoms survey, worksite evaluations, training and implementation of ergonomic control strategies.
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.
WMSD's 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.
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.
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.