Occupational ergonomics

Being ergonomically correct means more than simply avoiding physical injury. This common-sense science touches on all aspects of the physical and psychosocial work environment.

Ergonomics is not a new word. Nor is it a new science. In fact, the word was first used in 1857 to describe a discipline to enhance worker productivity and efficiency by relating the work environment to the abilities of the worker.

The science deals with making employees more efficient within their work environment, and impacts not only the cost of injuries, but also worker productivity, management and labour relations, turnover rate and compliance costs. In short, disregarding ergonomics can affect your bottom line on several levels.

There are a number of simple and inexpensive ergonomic controls you can implement today to help your employees adapt to their environment. In fact, 19% of ergonomic controls cost absolutely nothing. Here’s a sample:

  • Microbreaks: A number of studies have shown that microbreaks are effective in reducing fatigue and enhancing worker productivity. Remind your employees to take a 10 to 30 second break every twenty minutes…They should stretch and do eye, neck and finger exercises.
  • The light touch: Train employees to avoid using excessive force when striking computer keys. If they suffer from sore fingers or sore hands, chances are it’s not arthritis. Check how forcefully they strike those computer keys.
  • Let them be lazy: Problems related to poor posture are frequent among computer users. Make sure they’re sitting with both feet on the floor or footrest, with knees and trunk-thigh angles at least 90 degrees, and the spine in the ‘lazy S’ position.
  • A sight for sore eyes: Computer monitors impact visual comfort if they lack adequate contrast, the characters on the screen are too small, or if there’s over-use of color. Also, people tend to blink less when glancing at a computer monitor. If exposed to a computer monitor for long periods of time, contact lens wearers should think of wearing glasses or keeping their eyes moist.
  • Mix business with pleasure: Communicate with your employees on a regular basis and create a social environment with opportunities to do things as a group. Workers who feel they belong, have a good rapport with colleagues and have found a healthy balance between their personal life and their work life suffer much less from stress.

There’s no denying that employees who adapt well to their environment and their function are much more productive. Therefore, being ‘ergonomically correct’ is a good idea for everyone involved.

An ergonomically-designed work environment is of little benefit if it is not being used in its intended manner. The Ergonomics Program covers the following topics:

  • Training in ergonomics, an essential supplement
  • Effective training principles
  • Ergonomics Training Program

The objective is to provide employees with the information they need to modify their behavior and work environment, to the fullest extent. Effective training allows the employee to make the best use of equipment they have available, or can reasonably obtain.

An emphasis of the IHFC Ergonomics approach is maximizing the extent to which employees can effectively use the existing work environment. This is accomplished through the development of an ergonomics training program that shows the employees how to achieve desired ergonomic objectives through behavioral changes. General ergonomic principles such as the neutral posture, preferred viewing angles, etc., are demonstrated using the office equipment the employee uses. Hands-on practice is provided to ensure that the employee understands the principles. The responsibilities of the employee, in terms of fitness and off-work activities, are emphasized.