Office Ergonomics: Tips for Protecting your Workers

Physical movement and productivity go hand-in-hand, no matter the industry. Construction and factory workers walk around four miles daily in the process of performing their duties, according to research from the American Council on Exercise. This is why it’s important to put into place ergonomic safety strategies to ensure employees remain safe in the workplace. What exactly do high-performing programs of this kind include?

Here are some ergonomic program development best practices in use today, as well as additional details on how these procedures affect operations:

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is “the study of work,” according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) . In the workplace, safety professionals use this concept to create internal processes that include tasks and tools that optimize employee safety and reduce the potential for injury. For example, an industrial organization in the metals manufacturing space may relocate an assembly workstation so that it’s closer to casting equipment and therefore cuts down on worker movement and reduces the likelihood of slips, trips or falls. This simple yet impactful shop floor enhancement incorporates concepts from a couple different scientific disciplines, including:

  • Biomechanics
  • Kinesiology
  • Physiology
  • Psychology

Virtually every ergonomic safety strategy has the same end objective: Reduce the occurrence of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) linked to sudden injury or overwork.

Basic Ergonomics Screening Tool

What is the Advantage?

Almost all organizations can benefit from well-crafted ergonomics programs that lead to easy-to-implement workspace tweaks like the one discussed above. However, increased workplace safety is not the only advantage that comes with embracing ergonomics, EHS Today reported. Businesses that take this issue seriously and continually strive for ergonomic improvement see a number of fringe benefits, most notably:

  • Reductions in costs related to productivity losses and worker’s compensation.
  • Reductions in waste connected to insufficient product quality.
  • Increased growth linked to improved working conditions.
  • Improved regulatory frameworks.

These and other benefits associated with ergonomic improvement have prompted enterprises across numerous industries to invest in preventive safety solutions and pursue accompanying process upgrades.

Understanding Ergonomic Program Development

There are many reliable roadmaps that workplace safety professionals can follow when creating and sustaining an effective ergonomic safety program. An effective program includes some common best practices such as:

  • Continuous ergonomic assessment: Before making changes to existing workflows, businesses must know where they stand from an ergonomic perspective. OSHA and other workplace safety organizations offer comprehensive checklists that safety professionals can use to evaluate their work environments. These indexes cover a variety of variables, from the prevalence of tasks requiring awkward wrist movements to the volume of complaints linked to MSD symptoms.
  • Hazard control: Workplace safety professionals often address conventional hazards – dangers stemming from industrial equipment, for example – by implementing engineering controls and issuing personal protection equipment (PPE). They can use similar tactics when tackling ergonomic risks, EHS Today reported. Again, organizations such as OSHA offer effective strategies for reducing ergonomic dangerous, including workspace redesign.
  • Employee involvement: Businesses that attempt to address workplace ergonomic issues from the top down, without employee buy-in, usually end up overseeing ineffective initiatives. This is easy to prevent. Workplace safety professionals should encourage workers to not only take advantage of PPE and embrace optimized workspaces but also report symptoms that might indicate the presence of an MSD, according to the National Safety Council. Promoting preventive techniques such as stretching and the occasional walk is another good way to involve workers. Workplace training is also key here, EHS Today reported. Few employees are aware of the risks that come along with inefficient or overly repetitive movement in the workplace. Enterprises that give workers this awareness and offer them physiologically sound methods for executing their job duties can make major headway.

Companies that develop ergonomic programs with these components are likely to see significant results that bolster employee productivity and therefore translate to the bottom line.

Is your business interested in rolling out a specialized safety initiative to address ergonomic risks in the workplace? Take a look at the FFVA Mutual worker and employer safety tool kits, or look through our selection of proactive safety resources.