What exactly is Ergonomics? And how can it help you or your company?
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Ergonomics can be defined simply as the study of work. More specifically, ergonomics is the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job. Adapting tasks, work stations, tools, and equipment to fit the worker can help reduce physical stress on a worker’s body and eliminate many potentially serious, disabling work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Why are Ergonomics So Important?
Industries increasingly require higher production rates and advances in technology to remain competitive and stay in business. As a result, jobs today can involve:
- Frequent lifting, carrying, and pushing or pulling loads without help from other workers or devices
- Increasing specialization that requires the worker to perform only one function or movement for a long period of time or day after day
- Working more than 8 hours a day
- Working at a quicker pace of work, such as faster assembly line speeds
If work tasks and equipment do not include ergonomic principles in their design, workers may have exposure to undue physical stress, strain, and overexertion, including vibration, awkward postures, forceful exertions, repetitive motion, and heavy lifting. Recognizing ergonomic risk factors in the workplace is an essential first step in correcting hazards and improving worker protection. Ergonomists, industrial engineers, occupational safety and health professionals, and other trained individuals believe that reducing physical stress in the workplace could eliminate up to half of the serious injuries each year. Employers can learn to anticipate what might go wrong and alter tools and the work environment to make tasks safer for their workers.
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What are MSD's
MSDs, or musculoskeletal disorders, are injuries and disorders of the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and cartilage) and the nervous system. They can affect nearly all tissues, including the nerves and tendon sheaths, and most frequently involve the arms and back. Occupational safety and health professionals have called these disorders a variety of names, including cumulative trauma disorders, repeated trauma, repetitive stress injuries, and occupational overexertion syndrome. These painful and often disabling injuries generally develop gradually over weeks, months, and years. MSDs usually result from-
- Excessive repetition of movements that can irritate tendons and increase pressure on nerves
- Awkward postures, or unsupported positions that stretch physical limits, can compress nerves and irritate tendons
- Static postures, or positions that a worker must hold for long periods of time, can restrict blood flow and damage muscles
- Motion, such as increased speed or acceleration when bending and twisting, can increase the amount of force exerted on the body
- Inadequate recovery time due to overtime, lack of breaks, and failure to vary tasks can leave insufficient time for tissue repair
These risk factors, either alone or in combination, can subject workers’ shoulders, arms, hands, wrists, backs, and legs to thousands of repetitive twisting, forceful, or flexing motions during a typical workday.
What is the High Cost of MSD's
The High Cost of MSDs
- MSDs account for 34 percent of all lost-workday injuries and illnesses
- Employers report nearly 600,000 MSDs requiring time away from work every year
- MSDs account for $1 of every $3 spent for workers’ compensation
- MSDs each year account for more than $15 billion to $20 billion in workers’ compensation costs. Total direct costs add up to as much as $50 billion annually
- On average, it takes workers 28 days recover from carpal tunnel syndrome, longer than the time needed to recover from amputation or fractures
- Workers with severe injuries can face permanent disability that prevents them from returning to their jobs or handling simple, everyday tasks
Benefits of Proactive Ergonomics
Proactive ergonomics reduces costs- By systematically reducing ergonomic risk factors, you can prevent costly MSDs. With approximately $1 out of every $3 in workers compensation costs attributed to MSDs, this represents an opportunity for significant cost savings. Also, don’t forget that indirect costs can be up to twenty times the direct cost of an injury
Proactive ergonomics improves productivity- The best ergonomic solutions will often improve productivity. By designing a job to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions and better heights and reaches, the workstation becomes more efficient and happier employees
Proactive ergonomics improves quality- Poor ergonomics leads to frustrated and fatigued workers that don’t do their best work. When the job task is too physically taxing on the worker, they may not perform their job like they were trained. For example, an employee might not fasten a screw tight enough due to a high force requirement which could create a product quality issue
Proactive ergonomics improves employee engagement- Employees notice when their company is putting forth their best efforts to ensure their worker's health and safety. If an employee does not experience fatigue and discomfort during their workday, it can reduce turnover, decrease absenteeism, improve morale and increase employee involvement
Proactive ergonomics creates a better safety culture- Ergonomics shows your company’s commitment to safety and health as a core value of your most vaulable assest, your employee's. The cumulative effect of the previous four benefits of ergonomics is a stronger safety culture for your company. Healthy employees are your most valuable asset; creating and fostering the safety and health culture at your company will lead to better human performance for your organization
Call Human Hoist today to see how our innovative, ergonomically designed, one-of-a-kind product can help bring an end to work-related injuries!