To annex human being’s physical cum physiological, and psychological aptitude toward productivity and efficaciousness to work systems; safety, health and wellness of workers must be insured. An employee is a human resource an organization uses to deliver its service, achieve its target goals and objects therefore, the wellness of this resources (human) should be supported by the organization.
Ergonomics is the design of a workplace, equipment, product, environment and staff policies which take into consideration employee biomechanical, physical, and psychological and optimizes the effectiveness and productivity of work system while assuring the safety, health, and wellbeing of the worker according to Fernandez and Marley, 1998.
What kind of environment are we creating that supports health and wellbeing? This is the question both employer and employee have to subject themselves to because the degree of workplace wellness they create determine the level of productivity and risk of injuries. The attention of ergonomics is on human resource and as such, the task must be tied according to the body system of an individual to facilitate better output.
Illustrating workplace wellness, organizational arrangements incorporate permitting flex-time for work out, giving the on-site kitchen and eating zones, advertising sound nourishment choices in distributing machines, holding “walk and talk” gatherings, and advertising budgetary and other motivations for interest.
Novel developments in the workplace regulatory domain show that understanding of ergonomics and applying good ergonomic practices and principles is key to successful management of human resources. From the foregoing, it is evident that the provision of suitable working conditions helps and facilitates workers performance. Below are the importance of employing serviceable ergonomics:
An organization that wants to increase its productivity, quality of output, accelerates service delivery must see into the workplace wellness of their worker. As postulated by The Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly two-thirds of all occupation reported were caused by exposure to repeated trauma to workers upper body which includes the wrist, elbow or shoulder.
Like any other science, Ergonomics is the science that studies the matching of work to worker and not the other way round. Consequent to this, ergonomics have some general principle which must be applied to the workplace.
Some ergonomics principles that should be applied to the workplace, whether in an industrial or an environment, include the following:
Dynamic versus static work: work post position determines the efficiency and effectiveness of workers in delivering their work. Work posting should be dynamic and refrain from the static position where there is less or no movement. Fatigue is accelerated when there is a static loading of the muscle. For instance, when a worker is holding a weight in the arms for a long period, in addition, static work can arise in the case of the workplace being too high or too low. Keeping a steady bending of back to perform a task can lead to being extremely tired.
Note that fatigue can be physical which the above instances are applicable but, mental fatigue applies to cognitive stress that is caused as a result of the overworking of the brain with less work break or shift.
Dynamic work is the aim of ergonomics where the workers engage in differs motor activities in carrying out their tasks. The workplace has to design to suit the task to be carried out without overloading of the muscular system of individual workers.
Optimizing work surface heights: worker’s size should adapt to the kind of task performed. In this case, the measurement of workers’ weight and height have to be used as a yardstick for a work placement or task to be carried out. (We have written a related article - 37 Benefits of a Standing Desk)
Avoiding overload of muscles: task should be allocated considering the time range when an individual can maximize their strength. Overloading of the muscular system is prone to in manual task or operation of a machine or a piece of equipment over a long duration. The corollary for overloading of muscle is lack of interest and enthusiasm, low productivity and quality.
Avoiding unnatural postures: this principle is rooted in uncultured positioning of body parts whether in a relaxed position or work position. Individual workers should strive for the best mechanical positioning of their body parts for instance, work with both hands and avoid non-preferred hand for holding the device, the hands should move in symmetrical and opposite.
It is also necessary to change posture at an interval and maintain a proper sitting position. Unnatural postures can cause musculoskeletal disorders which are disorders of the muscle-tendon unit, peripheral nerves or the vascular system caused by a repeated or sustained posture of the body. Statistics also show that 60% of the musculoskeletal disorder is back injury caused by poor body mechanism and flex and poor physical condition (Olmsted Medical Centre). Other musculoskeletal disorders tennis elbow, low back pain, arthritis, neck pain.
Educating workers on the appropriate use of workplace, equipment, and facilities: for the workers to enjoy, and perform their task effectively, they must be instructed on the appropriate use of the workplace. This should be first done at the briefing of new workers and the instruction on the use of equipment and facilities can be done by the line manager, head of the department in conjunction with the human resource department to incorporate the worker into the system within the workplace.
Seating design: ergonomic seating in the workplace is primarily directed to increase individual workers/employee quality of performance and minimize tiredness from physical stress furthermore, to expedite convenient and fitting posture at the workplace the chairs should be fashioned to support the wellness of individual workers.
Less muscular engagement is required in the sitting position and does not build up fatigue, but in standing position fatigue sets in half an hour if one stands for one hour. Sitting in a stable position and one is not liable to fatigue easily. It is required that the workplace is furnished with suitable chairs according to individual task because sitting is needed for the precision of fine tasks. The foot can be controlled in the sitting position while maintaining good posture. (We have written a related article - 25 Desks Your Office Needs for Health & Wellness)
Important factors in choosing and purchasing a chair for the workplace are cost and appearance. Other factors that should be considered in the design and selection of chairs comprise:
The measurement of an individual (anthropometry);
Anthropometry is the measurement of the height, elbow-wrist length, etc. of human beings. There are some elements that affect anthropometric measurements. They are gender, growth and development, aging, social affiliation, and occupation among others. As posited by the International Labour Office, the workforce is different in various parts of the world and diversified therefore, it is consequential to design work on the standpoint of anthropometry of the workers.
Ergonomic design can use anthropometric data in three different ways:
Firstly, designing for a range; either from the ‘smallest to the largest’. The prevalent is from the 5th percentile to the 95th percentile, such as the design of adjustable height chairs based on height.
The second is, designing for the extremes ‘the smallest or the largest ’the same percentile with the range is used. For instance, the design of the doorpost height for the largest person's stature or the design of a shelf for the smallest worker's functional reach.
The third is, designing for an average. This design is solely encouraged when one is using the workplace for a very short period. This mode is often eschewed by ergonomists, as it does not accommodate a large segment of the worker. A typical example is designing work surface heights in a company or bank for the elbow height of customers.
Cumulative Trauma Disorders
Physical injuries sustained over a period of time which resulted from biomechanical or physiological stresses on a specific body part are cumulative trauma disorders. Cumulative trauma disorders encompass all syndromes characterized by persistent discomfort in joints, muscles, tendons, impairment (Kromer, 1989).
These injuries develop relatively months or years and it is difficult to determine how often cumulative trauma disorders occur. This shows this tendency of workers to indulge in these injuries as it is generally considered to be work-related. United States Department of labour, 1998 came out with the statistics showing an increase in the number of cumulative trauma disorders in the USA from 1981 to 1996 which can be attributed to change in technology, an aging workforce, a lower rate of the worker over among others.
Putz-Anderson research on cumulative trauma disorders describes four main occupational risk factors. These include: awkward posture a high rate of manual repetition excessive manual force inadequate rest
Rapid fatigue is also being called by static work, static loading occurs when muscles are required to generate tension without loading. (We have written a related article - The Best Standing Mat For You and Your Workplace)
Another factor implicated in the development of cumulative trauma disorders is Vibration which causes constriction of blood vessels in the fingers and the swelling of the hand tissues. Vibration leads to a reduction in grip strength. Vibration syndrome is also referred to as citation-induced white finger disease characterized by episodes of branches, coldness, and pain of the fingers due to the closure of the digital arteries (Putz-Anderson, 1988). This condition can be cautioned by less transmission of vibration from a tool to the hand. There should be paddling of machine handles to reduce the frequency of vibration transmitted.
Jobs that involve any of the aforementioned factors will have a high tendency of causing cumulative trauma disorders depending on the severity of each factor.
The major upper extremity cumulative trauma disorder is tendon disorders- this is a specialized type of tissue which connects muscles to bones;
Manual Materials Handling
Manual handling of materials in an improper way frequently leads to disorders of the vascular system, muscular-tendon or peripheral nerves. The prominent disorder is lower back injuries. The claims of the United States Compensation Act of 1970 posited that lower back injury problem is on a large scale.
Lower back injuries result from the amount of weight lifted, the stability of the load and lack of flexibility. Statistics posit that back injuries resulting from manual handling of material activities are a major source of lost time and compensation claims.
Still, on the standpoint on the statistical reference of lower back pain, Morris (1984) estimated 28 percent of the United States industrial population would experience disabling back pain at some point in their career lives while the cost of treating lower back injuries are also substantial.
The following are occupational risk factors for lower back injuries: the force and amount of weight lifting; frequency of lifting; location and size of load; the presences of handles; the geometry of the workplace; and environmental factors. (We have written a related article - Will Using a Standing Desk Relieve Back Pain and What's the Cost?)
It is advisable for companies to adopt work practices guild for manual material handling to support and facilitate workplace wellness. Companies can consult the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's work practices guild. The guild manual contains guidelines designed to facilitate the identification of hazardous manual material handling situations and provide evaluation techniques for jobs or tasks and in addition workable solutions when problems are encountered.
Agreeing to the investigation completed by Hoffman and Kennedy-Armbruster (2015), and distributed by the American College of Sports Pharmaceutical, Workplace wellbeing practice include: organisation leadership support which comes in, in the place of modeling; organizing of relevant and personalized programs; Partnership with workers, employers, organizations, and nearby community to facilitate excellent workplace environment.
Comprehensive and evidence-based programs (utilizing eight measurements of wellness can be an accommodating device- enthusiastic, natural, budgetary, mental, word related, physical, social, and spiritual. An implementation that's well arranged, facilitated, completely executed, and assessed for victory and accountability Employee engagement through organization and arranging wellness efforts Formal and comprehensive communication strategies/plans Data-driven choices that incorporate estimation, assessment, detailing, and analytics.
Programs can be organized to support workplace wellness, these can be compartmentalized into basic, complex and super-complex prevention programs. The basic prevention program includes stress management and exercise and promotion of healthy dieting. The complex programs focused at minimizing behaviours that do not support good health such smoking cessation programs, educating the workers on health-related issues which entail screenings for high blood pressure and sensitization on this factors related to cardiovascular diseases. The super-complex programs focus on the treatment of existing health issues of workers the sole purpose of reducing the symptoms and help the individual that is affected in treating and reducing the disease or injury progression. These programs encourage employees to stick to certain medication or health guidelines.
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