Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders
Ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace, keeping in minds the capabilities and limitations of the worker. Poor worksite design leads to fatigued, frustrated and hurting workers. This rarely leads to the most productive worker. More likely, it leads to a painful and costly injury, lower productivity and poor product quality.
The goal of ergonomics (i.e. the scientific study of people at work) is to prevent soft tissue injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by sudden or sustained exposure to force, vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture. To create an ergonomically sound work environment, NIOSH ergonomists and industrial hygienists recommend designing tasks, work spaces, controls, displays, tools, lighting, and equipment to fit employee’s physical capabilities and limitations.
By making improvements to the work process, you are removing barriers to maximum safe work performance. You are providing your workers with a job that is within their body’s capabilities and limitations. And (as you’ll see throughout this series) you’ll be contributing to your company’s bottom line.
But where do you get started?
What are other companies doing with respect to ergonomics and what do their results look like? How can you find the time and resources to execute this process at your facility?
Benefits of Ergonomics
An effective ergonomics process can benefit your organization in a number of different ways.
Ergonomics reduces costs.
By systematically reducing ergonomic risk factors, you can prevent costly MSDs. With approximately $1 out of every $3 in workers compensation costs attributed to MSDs, this represents an opportunity for significant cost savings. Also, don’t forget that indirect costs can be up to twenty times the direct cost of an injury.
Ergonomics improves productivity.
The best ergonomic solutions will often improve productivity. By designing a job to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions and better heights and reaches, the workstation becomes more efficient.
Ergonomics improves quality.
Poor ergonomics leads to frustrated and fatigued workers that don’t do their best work. When the job task is too physically taxing on the worker, they may not perform their job like they were trained. For example, an employee might not fasten a screw tight enough due to a high force requirement which could create a product quality issue.
Ergonomics improves employee engagement.
Employees notice when the company is putting forth their best efforts to ensure their health and safety. If an employee does not experience fatigue and discomfort during their workday, it can reduce turnover, decrease absenteeism, improve morale and increase employee involvement.
Ergonomics creates a better safety culture.
Ergonomics shows your company’s commitment to safety and health as a core value. The cumulative effect of the previous four benefits of ergonomics is a stronger safety culture for your company. Healthy employees are your most valuable asset; creating and fostering the safety & health culture at your company will lead to better human performance for your organization.
Ergonomics - NIOSH - Ergonomics and Muscular Skeletal
Alan Hedge Cornell University