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What is Ergonomics?

Tom Rothery, OTR, CFCE
Team Lead – Injury Elimination Specialist


Ergonomics is a relatively new concept that has only been around since it was officially accepted by the English lexicon during a meeting in the UK in 1949. Over the last few decades, there has been a vast movement in ergonomics and the understanding of interactions among humans and their environments. Ergonomics is a scientific-based discipline that looks at the knowledge and understanding of anatomy, physiology, psychology, and engineering. It is the study of designing equipment, devices, and processes that fit the human body and its cognitive abilities. The goal is to reduce human error, increase productivity, and enhance safety.

Human factors and ergonomics are concerned with the "fit" between the user, equipment, and environment (basically “fitting a person to a job.”).[6] The person should be able to optimize their abilities without trying to adapt to the work environment. One of the important aspects that we focus on in ergonomics is the ability to reduce the repetitive strain injuries that can lead to both short-term and long-term disabilities. These types of injuries can impact a person’s productivity, efficiency, and quality of life. For example, a data entry employee begins to experience bilateral wrist and hand pain causing fatigue and decreased productivity which, in turn, impacts work tasks. The focus for the assessment should not only include the symptoms of bilateral wrist and hand pain, but also the whole workstation design. That assessment includes looking at the monitor position, desk height, chair, phone, and postural positioning which can potentially be causing the symptoms. Consideration should also be focused on the percentage of time performing the various job tasks to determine those potential risk factors.

Ergonomists focus on theory, principles, data, and engineering designs. They develop the least stressful environment that can reduce and/or eliminate the potential for injuries. A variety of industries such as: manufacturing, technology, aviation, food/beverage, and agricultural look for ergonomists, industrial engineers, health care professionals, and safety professionals for consultation on improving work environments. A key factor in performing ergonomics is data collection. This assesses repetition, force, posture, and tool design in the environment or system. A thorough job analysis can provide valuable information on many of the key factors required to perform job tasks. Without the appropriate assessment of the physical demands and positional tolerances for various jobs, it is difficult to provide employers with information on risk factors and recommendations for equipment needs.

What we can anticipate in the coming years is an even greater push towards investing time and research in creating work environments that provide a safe platform for employees. Employers have become significantly more engaged in the field of ergonomics while searching for more preventative measures on maintaining the health and wellness of their employees. Looking at how to improve production and efficiency in the working environment has become a key goal in many business arenas, with the ultimate goal of determining what the human factor and what the “fit” is between the system and environment.

For over 20 years, We at OccuCare have specialized in providing high-level ergonomic assessments and causation analyses for a variety of businesses and insurance companies around the country. Our clinicians are highly trained in administering the latest innovations in ergonomics and identifying risk factors and hazards in the work environment. We pride ourselves in providing the customer with cost effective solutions and hands-on experience to reduce and eliminate risk factors.

References

Safety and Health Topics | Ergonomics | Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Retrieved March 28, 2019, from https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/ergonomics/

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