If you’re looking for ergonomic risk in the workplace, the three most common types are:
- Sustained Poor Posture
- High Task Repetition
- Forceful Exertion
These lead to most complaints of stress and strain that can lead to permanent health issues, especially musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
Sustained Poor Posture
Probably the most common risk factor and perhaps the best well-known, is sustained poor posture. This occurs when your workspace does not have the proper equipment for you to maintain optimal posture.
Your spinal column is shaped roughly like an S. It is important to maintain the natural S-curve of the back, whether sitting or standing. Working for long periods with your back in a C-curve, such as sitting at a typical office desk, can place strain on your back. Good lumbar support is often helpful to maintain the proper curve in the small of your back. The inverted C-curve creates an even greater strain on your back. Even without lifting a load, bending over like this creates a great deal of pressure on the spine.
High Task Repetition
Even when something is easy and seem relatively effortless to do once or twice, it can be a strain on the body when it has to be done many times over a short period of time without rest. For example, if you use the computer mouse on your desktop or type on a keyboard at an awkward angle. Also, the frequent turning of the head to face numerous screens can lead to neck strain.
One concept is to think about the reach envelope, which is the semi-circle that your arms make as you reach out. Occasional use items should be within the reach envelope of your full arm. Constant use items should be within the reach envelope of your forearms.
Frequently, problems with reach are simply matters of rearranging your work area and moving things closer to you. This is not exactly a hard concept to grasp; what is difficult is having the presence of mind to notice and change the location of things that you often reach for. Usually it’s force of habit, and you are unaware that you continually reach for something that could be easily moved closer.
Most commonly represented by lifting of heavy loads in manual work, it also occurs from continuous pushing or twisting that involves the whole body or smaller body parts like the wrist when turning a heavy knob or lever.
Excessive force on your joints can create the potential for fatigue and injury. In practical terms, the action item is for you to identify specific instances of excessive force and think of ways to make improvements.
Consider pulling a heavy cart might create excessive force for your back and shoulders. To make improvements make sure the floor is in good repair, that the wheels on the cart are sufficiently large, and that there are good grips on the cart. Another manner of reducing force is to use a hoist for lifting heavy objects, such as a pallet jack.
But it is also important to note that more often than not, musculoskeletal injuries often occur not solely due to one risk factor but a combination of them. For example, perhaps turning the dial doesn’t require too forceful an exertion but when done repetitively, injuries happen.
Reduce Risk Factors
The first step is identifying the risks. Then you want to assess your workspace and possibly even how you go about your job to decided what action must be taken. A simple way to address these issues is by adopting office ergonomics.
More and more companies are creating ergonomic products for the modern workplace; these products can help you and your team work more comfortably, which translates into working more safely. Let’s take a look at five great options you should have in your office.
- A standing desk is one type of ergonomic furniture that is becoming more ubiquitous in the workplace. Sitting all day isn’t good for you—and many people want to incorporate more physical activity into their lives, especially during the workday.
- An active chair is one of the ergonomic computer furniture options we recommend when you need a bit of a rest from standing. It also helps you work your core muscles, which helps you move more at work.
- When it comes to ergonomic commercial office products, you can’t beat an under-desk keyboard tray. Not only will they help you keep your keyboard in an ergonomically optimal position, they can help keep your desk uncluttered as well.
- Ergonomic office furniture can be expensive. If you can’t replace your entire desk, consider a standing desk conversion—these sit on an existing surface and can be adjusted to the correct height for sitting or standing.
- To boost your movement during the workday, try using a balance board. This is one of many ergonomic home products that can also be used at work. Constantly trying to remain vertical is a beneficial form of exercise that doesn’t require you to stop what you’re doing, whether you’re at work or at home.