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What is Ergonomics?

May 01, 2019
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While talking to my friends, a group of healthy 20-25 year-old university graduates who have recently entered the workforce, I was surprised to learn how common back and muscle pain due to studying and deskwork had become. As all of us were joking about how we felt like we were unhealthy and working labour intensive jobs, I could not help but recognize that this is a serious yet neglected issue.

When we think of why body aches and pains have become so common, often the answer that comes to mind is awkward posture, or working for too long. While these are contributing factors, there are a wide variety of elements at play. A specific field of study, called ergonomics, actually addresses these concerns. Many of us have heard the term and perhaps just never paid much attention to it, until it is too late!

Whether you work at a desk or in a more physically demanding role or anywhere in between, T. Harris Environmental Management Inc. (THEM) can help make sure your work isn’t hurting you. If you have questions about how we can help, call us at 1-888-ASK-THEM.

WHAT IS ERGONOMICS ?:

In a nutshell ergonomics is the process by which any task is adjusted to fit the person’s physical and mental capabilities to alleviate stress and/or strain, and as such, avoid ergonomic related injuries. Ergonomics is not just limited to the position of your chair, or the placement of your desk. It can be applied to everything we do in life; even sleeping. Thus, when applying ergonomics in the workplace the task is fitted to the worker, and when designing consumer items the products are matched to the target users.


WHY IS ERGONOMICS IMPORTANT?:

Unfortunately, many of us take minor back pain, muscle cramps, and stiffness lightly, as it is commonly observed in many of our family and friends. Some of us choose to ignore it as “we just do not have time for it”.

However, pains and cramps due to poor/awkward posture, repetitive tasks, exposure to vibrations, and forceful exertions in labor intensive tasks, are a serious workplace hazard. In fact, lower back pain from poor ergonomically designed job tasks is a very common workplace injury, and in some parts of the world it is the most common work-related disability. This means that poor office ergonomics not only affects the employees long-term, but also reduces the overall productivity of the company, and thereby also reduces profits.  As an employer you may suffer direct and indirect costs, such as; increase in insurance coverage, loss of reputation/credibility, and in employee (turnover).

To put this into perspective, according to the Public Services Health and Safety Association (PSHSA):

  • 1 in every 10 Canadian adults has experienced Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD) that has limited their normal activities.

  • 30% lost-time claims were due to MSDs in Ontario in 2016.

  • MSDs have been the most common type of work injury over the past 10 years.

 

T. Harris Environmental Management can help you make the most out of your workstation while keeping your staff healthy! Email us at info@tharris.ca to request a free consultation!

WHAT ARE COMMON ERGONOMICS ISSUES?:

Poor posture, repetitive tasks, and forceful physical exertions can lead to the development of a broad range of disorders called Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs), or Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs). Essentially, when our muscles, joints, and tendons are repeatedly exerted and stressed they eventually become damaged and can become irreversible. Thus, acute pain felt for a few hours can actually develop into serious and chronic problems.

Common examples of such injuries include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Back injuries

  • Tendinitis

  • Raynaud’s syndrome (White Finger)

ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM MUSCULOSKELETAL DISORDER?

Common symptoms experienced by workers include:

  • Swelling

  • Acute and chronic pain

  • Stiffness

  • Reduction in range of motion

  • Inflammation

  • Eye strains

HOW CAN I LIVE ANERGONOMICS LIFE?:

As an employer:

As work-related injuries due to poor ergonomics can substantially impact your employees’ wellbeing and company’s economic standing, investing in an Office Ergonomic Program can be highly beneficial.

An ergonomics professional, such as an Occupational Hygienist, can help create customized solutions to address your ergonomic concerns. This involves performing an in-depth review of all aspect of the environment that would effect a workers comfort, and also recommend control measures to prevent future injuries.

Services can include:

  • A thorough analysis of a worker’s environment; such as their

    • Job task

    • Frequency and duration

    • Lighting conditions

    • Tools/equipment used

    • Posture used and force exerted

    • Exposure to vibration and extreme temperatures

    • Reach and range of motion to commonly used items

  • A program that addresses worker’s unique needs and fit the task to each worker by following best practices published in reputable standards and guidelines.

  • Training that allows employers to become self-sufficient when evaluating the ergonomics of their day-to-day tasks, and provide recommendations for ergonomic work practices, such as lifting and stretching exercises.

EVERYONE WINS:

When your Occupational Hygienist completes your new Office Ergonomic Program you can expect benefits such as:

  • Increased productivity and efficiency

  • Increased overall health, well-being and employee morale

  • Decrease in work-related injuries such as MSDs

  • Decreased indirect and direct costs to employers

As an Employee:

Ask your employer if there is an Office Wellness and/or Ergonomic Program in place. Recognize signs and symptoms of MSDs and report them to your employer. If you notice there is a task/activity that is uncomfortable, let your employer know so they can adjust the task. Finally, follow recommendations on best ergonomic practices, such as taking regular breaks, for your health and safety!



With benefits like this, why wouldn’t you make the move for better workplace ergonomics?

 1-888-ASK-THEM  |  www.tharris.ca  | info@tharris.ca

Edmonton | London | Toronto | Ottawa | Montreal

T. HARRIS ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT INC. – TAKING THE BACK PAIN OUT OF YOUR WORKPLACE SINCE 1979


REFERENCES

  • CCOHS.ca. (2019). (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety). [online] Available at: https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/ergonomics/ [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].

  • DiNardi, S. R. (1997). The occupational environment: Its evaluation and control. Fairfax, VA: AIHA Press.

  • PSHSA.ca. (2018). (Public Services Health and Safety Association). [online] Available at: https://www.pshsa.ca/ergonomics/ [Accessed 7 Feb. 2019].

About the Author – T. Harris Environmental Management Inc.

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