What is Ergonomics?
The definition of ergonomics can be very broad, but it can be summarized as having the workstation in a way that is as comfortable as possible for a person to work on. The task, equipment, and environment of the workplace must be able to fit each worker individually.
Having an office worker as example, if the workstation is ergonomic, the chair, desk, a monitor wall mount, and even accessories such as mousepad and phone, must be designed in a way that is very comfortable for the worker to spend hours in that workstation.
How Can You Tell If a Workstation is Ergonomic?
There are two simple ways of telling if the workstation is ergonomic. First, most of the equipment used must be adjustable. Remember that ergonomic products fit each worker individually, so the chair, monitor arm, desk, keyboard, etc, must be highly adjustable. An ergonomic product is not one size fits all, to the contrary, if it is not possible to adjust according to each user’s preferences, it is not ergonomic.
The second way of telling if the workstation is ergonomic or not is asking the user if he or she is sore after a day of work, if the eyes are strained or the wrists from typing. If the answer is yes, obviously the workstation is not as comfortable as it should be, so it is not ergonomic.
It does not matter how comfortable a desk, or chair can be. If you sit on it 7 hours in a row you will not feel good. You need to keep your body moving! Taking a break of 15 minutes after 2 hours of work and having a little walk is a great habit to have in the workplace.
With that in mind, there is now a product that allows the worker to keep moving while he or she is working. The best sit to stand desks are the ones that changes the height of the tabletop, so the worker can lift up the table, so it rises to a height in which it is possible to keep working while standing up. Changing the working position between sitting and standing on a regular basis is a great way to keep the body moving instead of sitting all day in front of the computer.
Beyond the Office
It is natural to associate ergonomics with office workers, posture and time in front of the computer. After all, a person who is sitting in the office all day has a greater risk of suffering from inappropriate ergonomics. However, other types of workers also need to be mindful of correct working practices in their workplace. Let’s look into a warehouse worker as an example.
A person working in a warehouse will be exposed to manual handling tasks, such as lifting loads. A few problems that are associated with this task are:
- Heavy loads
- Uncomfortable postures
- Incorrect grip on the load
- Repetitive movements
- Slippery or uneven floor surface
The incorrect practices on material handling tasks can cause physical injuries, as well as long term low back pain or in other parts of the body. There is also a risk of accidents such as slips, trips, and falls.
In that example of material handling worker, the use of an electrical winch or hoist is a great tool to make that role meet ergonomics requirements.
So it does not matter if the worker sits in the office, warehouse, or even drives the company truck. Ergonomics must be taken into consideration in all departments of the business.
Much More Than Posture
Ergonomics is about the well-being of employees in the workplace. A great way to achieve that goal is to keep an open communication between worker and company. The business should hear what the workers have to say before imposing changes in the company furniture, or equipment.
By getting the employees involved in the process of improving the workplace, the company gets a high level of commitment in work and safety practices, as well as productivity. Employees can also help to identify workplace risk and opportunity of improvement.
Last, but definitely not least, the worker will feel that the company cares about what he or she thinks and will feel appreciated, and that their opinion counts.
Ergonomics and Productivity
The obvious thinking that if a worker is healthier he or she will not need to be absent from work is not what ergonomics is about, even though it may have started in the olden days. Today, ergonomics is used to improve productivity, make the workplace fairer and enjoyable. In fact, if it is done right, the workers will enjoy spending time at work. A business that can provide it for its employees can only thrive.