Workplace Ergonomics: Improving Employee Health, Safety, and Productivity
Ergonomics is an important safety measure in any facility. Ergonomics is defined as the study of people’s efficiency in their work environment. It considers the match between the person, the equipment they use, the work process, and the work environment. When considering safety measures in your facility, ergonomics should be a top component.
When discussing ergonomics with employees, it is important to fully understand what ergonomics is and how to prevent workplace injuries. There are key components that fall under ergonomic safety knowledge.
Inform your employees what their “Power Zone” is. This zone is from a person’s shoulders down to their waist. It is important to lift close to the body using their legs to lift. This zone is where arms and back can lift the most with the least amount of effort.
It is important that an employee knows the weight of what they are about to lift. Establish a company-wide one-person weight limit of 50 pounds. After that weight has been exceeded, two people must be required to lift. It is also important to have help to lift an object if it is awkward to lift, even if it is under the 50lb weight limit.
When lifting it is important to plan ahead. Employees should ask themselves the following questions:
- How much does this object weight?
- What is the weight limit for one person lifting?
- Is this object going to be awkward to lift?
- Does this require an additional person?
In some facilities employees might not solely lift products but need to use the assistance of a cart. Employees should push carts and not pull. Pulling on heavy carts commonly results in upper/lower back and shoulder strains. If a cart is too heavy to push, employees should ask for help or request a forklift for assistance.
When you implement and promote proper ergonomics you can see a rise in productivity. Other benefits may include reducing wasteful motions, improving time-saving measures, alleviating employee fatigue, and decreasing turnover and absenteeism
The most important benefit of ergonomics is reducing Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD). MSDs are injuries and disorders that affect the human body’s movement or musculoskeletal system. Common disorders include tendonitis, carpal tunnel, ligament sprains, ruptured discs, and more. These can lead to disabled employees, slower work pace, or potentially workers’ compensation
There are individual factors associated with work-related MSDs.
- physical activity
To prevent workplace injury “Ergo Breaks” are highly recommended. Stretching before, during, and after work reduces the chances of an ergonomic injury. Try implementing a company wide-stretching plan that teaches employees how to properly stretch and release tensions. A short 5-10 minute stretch every hour will leave employees relieved and ready to accomplish the next task.
Review your company’s ergonomics requirements in orientation, through general meetings, and random tip segments. With the help of leadership and employees, you can decrease and eliminate ergonomic injuries by awareness and changes in the work processes.