The Importance of Workplace Ergonomics

22nd May 2020

What is ergonomics?

Ergonomics refers to the fit between people and their work; combining health and design to optimise the work environment for the individual. Application of ergonomics ensures that the tasks, equipment as well as the environment are all fit for the worker, minimising the risk of injury or harm. By reducing the impact of psychical and psychological strains, you help employees to work in a happier, healthier and safer environment. Continue reading to find out what factors to consider when implementing workplace ergonomics, how to avoid bad ergonomics in the workplace and how to optimise office ergonomics both in the workplace and when working remotely.

Factors to consider when implementing workplace ergonomics solutions include:

The job role & tasks carried out

The first factor to consider when considering workplace ergonomics is to understand the job role and the tasks that are involved as part of this role. This is so that we can understand how the job role relates to the individual.

  • The demand that is being placed on the worker (both physically and psychologically).
  • The equipment they use as part of their job role, and appropriateness of this. equipment for the task in hand.
  • Their physical working environment (temperature, lighting, noise etc).

A person’s physical and psychological characteristics

Next, we need to understand how the job role (and all that is involved as part of the job role) links to a person’s physical and psychological characteristics. This will help to determine suitability, and where improvements can be made to help ensure the individual’s safety.

  • Body size (height, weight and shape).
  • Fitness and strength levels.
  • Posture.
  • A person’s sense (including, but not limited to, vision, hearing and touch).
  • Mental capabilities.
  • Experience / Skill.
  • Speed.
  • Training.

The environment

Finally, the environment in which all of this is being carried out needs to be considered, as this will have an impact on the ergonomic workplace solutions that can be in place.

  • Team structure (including teamwork, leadership, and supervision).
  • Support.
  • Resource availability.

Each and every individual has different psychical and psychological needs, so by gaining an understanding into how these relate to a person’s job role within their working environment, you’ll be in the best position to design a work environment that is safe, effective and productive.

Office ergonomics

The most common application of ergonomics you’re likely to be aware of is within an office environment. It’s important to remember that within the working environment, every individual will have different needs, and so to apply correct ergonomics, a personal workstation assessment (or workplace desk assessment) will need to be carried out. This is usually carried out by a trained specialist, like ourselves, who will investigate each person individually, and come up with a tailored plan to suit them best. Some of the areas we look at as part of a personal workstation assessment include:

Chair adjustments

  • It is important to choose a chair that is able to support your back and spinal curves.
  • An individual may need a back support, such as a lumbar roll or support cushion for greater support.
  • Employees should be shown how to adjust their chair, this needs to be at a height that feels comfortable for them, allowing their feet to lay flat on the floor, thighs flat to the floor and knees sat at a 90-degree angle.
  • Armrests should be set so arms are able to rest comfortably on them with their shoulders relaxed.
  • Employees should be encouraged to take regular breaks from this sitting position.

Monitor positioning

  • The monitor should be positioned close to the user, around an arm’s length away is recommended.
  • The top of the monitor screen should just be at or slightly below the eye level. however, this may need to be adjusted if the user wears bifocals for example.
  • No bright light sources should be directed at the monitor screen to avoid glare.

Keyboard & Mouse

  • Both the mouse and keyboard should be comfortably within reach of use.
  • Wrists should be kept straight, and arms close to your body; both the wrists and elbows should be at the same level
  • Use wrist supports where necessary, and the keyboard should be slighted tiled to a comfortable angle for the user.

Office supplies

  • For equipment or office supplies the user regularly uses, this should be kept close to the body to reduce the need for strained, repetitive or awkward movements.
  • Where an object cannot be comfortably reached by sitting, the user should stand instead.
  • This includes, but is not limited to the phone, stationery, calculators, headsets etc.

To help avoid the negative implications of sitting for long periods, we would encourage employees to incorporate some of the following into their day:

  • Have regular breaks from the screen, and take a walk (even if it is just to make a cup of tea).
  • Give the option of using a standing desk.
  • Exercises which can be done at the desk.
  • Regular stretching whilst working at their desk.
  • Standing, or walking around during a phone call where possible.

If you would like further information about ergonimics at work or would like to inquire about a personal workstation assessment, get in touch with our team of occupational health advisors. We’re here to help!

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