Why Ergonomics?

ergonomics, er-go-nom-ics [ur-guh-nom-iks] noun    
the science of fitting the job to the person;  the design of a workplace, equipment, and/or job to improve safety, efficiency, and productivity;  creation of a workspace that reduces fatigue, discomfort and the risk of injury 

 

Why Ergonomics?

  • Ergonomic related injuries account for over 30% of the reported work-related injuries in the United States.
  • The average cost of an ergonomic related upper extremity injury is $8000.
  • US employers pay approximately $15 billion per year in direct costs due to ergonomic related injuries.
  • Indirect costs are 3-5 times higher which can cost in excess of $75 billion annually. 

 

Benefits of Ergonomics

  • Increases company profitability
  • Reduces Worker's Compensation costs
  • Reduces insurance premiums
  • Improves employee productivity
  • Eliminates risk factors that cause ergonomic-related injuries
  • Reduces employee absenteeism due to pain and discomfort
  • Improves ease-of-use of the workstation
  • Complies with government regulations (OSHA's General Duty Clause)

 
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Ergonomic - Related Injuries

Ergonomic-Related Injuries
Ergonomic related injuries are typically caused by a lack of 'good ergonomics'.  Good ergonomics includes creating an environment that allows the body to work in its most natural posture with limited stress from external sources. 

These injuries are identified by several names including, Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSIs), Cumulative Trauma Disorders (CTDs), Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMIs), and Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs).  Their onset is due to wear and tear of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones and/or joints of the body.  They do not occur instantaneously, but over an extended period of time due to repetitive use, awkward postures during static or dynamic movements and/or forceful exertions of the body.

Risk Factor Definitions

  • Repetitive Use - performing a task with moderate to high frequency
  • Awkward Posture - the body in a position outside of its natural/neutral stature
  • Static Awkward Posture - performing a task with limited movement in an unnatural body posture (eg. keyboard typing)
  • Dynamic Awkward Posture - performing a task with continuous movement in an unnatural body posture (eg. lifting an object from the floor without proper technique)
  • Forceful Exertions - performing a task where the body must overcome a weight or resistance of an object

While any single risk factor can lead to the development of an ergonomic-related injury, when combined the risk increases.

Common Ergonomic-Related Injuries

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome - the pinching of the median nerve which passes through the carpal tunnel in the wrist along with tendons used to flex the fingers and blood vessels. 
  • Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow, Golfer's Elbow) - Strained or overused muscles attached to the elbow that control movement of the wrist and hand. Pain typically radiates from the elbow down the forearm.
  • Thoracic Outlet Syndrome - Compression of nerves and blood vessels in the shoulder to neck area.
  • DeQuervain's Disease - Compression of thumb tendons and their common sheath affecting the base of the thumb and/or side of the wrist.

Common Injury Symptoms

  • Pain
  • Tingling Sensation
  • Swelling
  • Soreness
  • Numbness
  • Loss of Strength
  • Limited Range of Motion

These are common symptoms among ergonomic-related injuries, however, they may vary from person to person.

There are several ways to manage Ergonomic Risk Factors: 

  • "Proactive with PREVENTION": identifying and eliminating risk factors present prior to the onset of injury symptoms; job productivity is not impacted. 
  • Early Intervention:  recognized intermittent pain/discomfort or other symptoms; tasks become mildly more difficult to perform; job productivity is slightly impacted.
  • Reactive Measures:  pain or symptom is persistent; tasks are difficult to perform; injuries are medically diagnosed and/or job productivity is impacted.

 

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