Do you work in the manufacturing industry? If so, you should perform an analysis of your workstations to ensure they are ergonomic. Ergonomics — the act of fitting a workstation to meet the needs of the worker — plays an important role in the prevention of injuries. To learn more about this process and why it’s important, keep reading.
What Is Ergonomics?
The International Ergonomics Association published the following definition of ergonomics: “[Ergonomics is] the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”
An example of ergonomics is raising a work table or shelf so the worker doesn’t have to bend over to use it. While it may seem harmless enough, constantly bending over day after day can take its toll on workers, promoting back pain and increasing the risk of injury. Another example is a worker using a hand truck to lift and haul heavy objects. Even if the worker is physically capable of handling the objects, a hand truck reduces stress on his or her body, which subsequently reduces the risk of injury.
Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 70 million doctors’ visits per year are attributed to Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs). These disorders include any injury or strain involving the tissue, muscles, tendons, nerves and spinal discs. The problem with MSDs is that they often go unnoticed until it’s too late, at which point the disorder has already set in. Thankfully, though, manufacturing workers can protect themselves from MSDs by following some basic ergonomics practices.
Some of the most commonly reported MSDs include the following:
- Pinched nerve
- Herniated disc
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS)
- Tarsal tunnel syndrome (TTS)
- Sprained muscle
- Muscle tear
Implementing Ergonomics In The Manufacturing Industry
There are dozens of steps both employers and workers can take to promote ergonomics in the manufacturing industry. Arguably, one of the most important steps is education. Workers who unknowingly lift or handle materials in awkward manners are at risk for developing MSDs. The golden rule of lifting a heavy object, for instance, is to lift with your legs, not your back. Other ways to promote ergonomics includes on-going training, adjusting shift hours so workers are given breaks, using heavy-lift equipment, and setting up anti-fatigue mats.
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