Ergonomics In The Workplace: Risk Factors And Control Methods

Ergonomic back pain costs U.S. employers $7 billion per year in lost work days and productivity, according to EHS Today. Poor posture at work is a major cause of head, back or neck pain, strain injury, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), and work stress, resulting in not only poor employee health but also lost time and productivity.

A recent study on correlation between posture and workplace productivity showed that 75 percent of participants extensively trained to improve on posture habits decreased back pain and felt more productive at work.  

Ergonomics Risk Factors

Ergonomic risk factors are aspects of a job that can cause biomechanical stress on the employee, such as highly repetitive tasks, awkward postures, forceful exertions, static postures over a long period of time, cold temperatures, and localized pressure into the body part. Exposure to one or more ergonomic risk factors could cause or contribute to MSD.

Control Methods

There are several control methods employers can implement to reduce ergonomic risk factors exposure in the workplace:

  • Conduct ergonomic analyses to measure risks for each job, identify, implement and continually evaluate solutions
  • Use engineering controls to eliminate excessive force and awkward postures and allow workers to maintain optimal joint positions
  • Provide safe and effective procedures as well as necessary tools (such as carts and dollies for lifting or carrying) for completing work tasks safely
  • Rotate workers between workstations and tasks to prevent extended time of performing a repetitive task
  • Implement rests or stretch breaks to increase recovery and avoid prolonged static postures
  • Provide proper lifting and other work techniques, and ergonomics training to employees

3 Tips on How To Improve Posture

To live and work healthily, each and every one of us must be responsible for reducing our exposure to ergonomic risk factors. Start by noticing your posture and identifying what you are doing wrong if you are experiencing back, head or neck pain. Here are three quick tips to improve your posture:

  1. Sit up straight, align your ears, shoulders and hips in one vertical line. Avoid unbalanced postures like crossing legs, leaning to one side or hunching shoulders.
  2. Avoid sitting or doing a repetitive task for a long period of time. Take a quick break every half an hour to walk, stretch or stand. 
  3. While standing, distribute your weight evenly on both hips.

Gaining a solid understanding of proper postures and ergonomics’ basic principles to improve your daily habits, along with getting yourself equipped with the right tools and regularly exercising outside of work will help you prevent MSD, reduce pains and work stress. Remember, small changes can make a big difference!

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