Ergonomics: Creating a Safe and Healthy Work Space
At work, we all want to be the right person for the job. However, it’s just as important to make sure the job is right for the person. Employees need a safe, comfortable working environment that fits their individual needs.
Workers in many different jobs can be exposed to risks, such as lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing the same or similar tasks repetitively. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the person by assessing risks and taking steps to create a safe and comfortable work environment for every employee. Doing so improves productivity, performance, job satisfaction, and overall well-being. There are many simple steps you can take to start creating a work environment that best fits your needs.
Start by assessing your work space. What are some things that you deal with on a daily basis as a part of your job? For those that work in an office setting, sitting at a desk for long hours can cause pain in the wrist, back, and neck. For those with more active jobs, long hours on your feet can cause pain in the feet, ankles, legs, and back. By making even small changes to your work space, you can reduce the risk of health issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendinitis, muscle strains and low back injuries. These changes can include setting your chair at a comfortable height and distance from your computer, setting frequently used objects within reach without straining, or using proper lifting technique by bending your knees and keeping your back straight.
The importance of ergonomics isn’t limited to your physical space. It’s also important to take plenty of breaks throughout the day. Even a short 5 minute break can help you to feel re-energized and prevent burnout. If you’re on your feet all day, be sure to take breaks to sit and rest. If you work at a computer, give your eyes a break at least once every hour, and focus on an object that is 20 minutes away for 20 seconds. This will help to prevent eye strain. By committing to creating an ergonomic work space, you’ll set yourself up to be happier, healthier, and more productive.
CREATING AN ERGONOMIC WORK SPACE
- Your chair should provide lumbar support and curve in a similar way to the curve in your spines. Consider purchasing a pad for your chair if necessary.
- Make sure your monitor is at least an arm’s length in front of you.
- Get a wrist pad to support your wrist while typing or using a mouse.
- Make an effort to improve your posture, and don’t slouch.
- Wear shoes with a wide toe and good arch support.
- Take frequent breaks and stretch as often as possible.
Sources: Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The Health Tip of the Week is for educational purposes only. For additional information, consult your physician. Please feel free to copy and distribute this health resource.