Why are Ergonomics in the Workplace Important?

Back & Neck Pain On the Job Health / June 1, 2018
Ergonomics in the Workplace

Did you know the average American works more than 2,000 hours each year? This regimen can be placing an extreme amount of stress on your body, especially your back, neck, shoulders, and legs.

You may be thinking that this pain is inevitable – you’ve got to work your 2,000 hours, right? In most cases, yes. However, there is a simple solution to minimizing these harmful effects on your body.

Office ergonomics.

Defining Workplace Ergonomics

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), ergonomics is defined as “the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job.” Simply put, ergonomics encourages people to work productively in their specific work environment by altering the environment to fit their unique needs.

Daily workplace tasks such as frequent lifting and carrying, constant repetitions of the same motion, a quicker work pace, and longer work days are creating physical stress on the body, often leading to occupational injury.

Initially, introducing ergonomics to the workplace can be tricky. Working conditions vary between jobs, and each individual worker has their own unique needs. However, there are two golden rules of ergonomics in the workplace that apply for most all occupations. These rules are:

  1. Utilize posture as a variable
  2. Learn your own bio-mechanics

In order to achieve proper workplace ergonomics, you must begin with the individual worker.

Posture as a Tool in Ergonomics

We’ve said it before, and we’ll most likely say it again – posture is incredibly important. In the case of ergonomics, posture can be crucial when you are in the workplace environment. Correct posture can prevent the onset of non-accidental injuries.

Posture for Physically Demanding Careers

Physically demanding careers can range from healthcare workers who are required to move quickly and assist in patient transportation, to construction workers who routinely operate heavy machinery. In situations where you are always on the move, remember that your posture is a variable that can be changed dependent on your situation. Always give yourself time to stretch your muscles and ligaments to avoid tension, and keep your spinal column aligned.

If your job requires frequent or heavy lifting, remember that there is such a thing as “too heavy.” Only carry what you can handle. When you lift, always bend at the knees with the back straight. Hunching forward repeatedly will cause unnecessary friction within the spinal discs, which can result in slipped discs or pinched nerves.

Likewise, be mindful of your fatigue. If your body or mind is feeling overtired, take notice. Do not attempt operating machinery or lifting heavy loads while not at your optimal strength. This will dramatically increase your chances of an accidental work injury.

Posture for Office Careers

Those who sit a majority of the day, especially those working at a computer while seated at an office chair, are frequent sufferers of back pain. Your body requires motion to remain comfortable, which is why after 30 minutes at your desk you’re itching to get back up again. The solution here is to remember to move. Perform simple stretches while still seated, or stand to stretch.

In terms of ergonomics, there are four requirements your posture should meet for optimal working ability when seated at a desk:

  1. Keep your body aligned to your chair back. If you are not getting enough support, add a cushion behind the lower or upper back so as to keep the spine straight. In fact, that are a plethora of tools and accessories you can bring to work to maintain a healthy back and spine while seated. Your chair should be height adjustable, and your backrest should be able to tilt backward and forward with applied pressure.
  2. Keep your feet on the floor. Crossing your legs or keeping legs elevated for too long of a time will place unnecessary stress on the lumbar region of the spine. Again, an adjustable chair should allow you to adjust the chair to the proper height such that your feet can rest flat on the floor. If you’re someone who is often shifting their legs, consider adding a stool under your desk. This way, you can still keep flat while elevating the legs.
  3. Your computer monitor should be eye level. In addition to eye strain, having to keep your head tilted for hours at a time will result in stress of the neck. Oftentimes, a monitor is sitting too low on a desk. Consider asking your company for a riser. An inexpensive, ergonomic-friendly solution, monitor risers are adjustable stands to place underneath your monitor in order to raise it to eye-level. If you choose to use a standing-desk, risers allow your monitor to be raised to your eye-level at standing height.
  4. Your keyboard and mouse should be flush with your elbow. Your keyboard should not reach above a 15 degree angle. This unnatural slope will create stress in the arm, shoulder, and upper back that will only worsen over time.

If your career has you seated behind a wheel instead of a desk, bear in mind tips 1 and 2. For tips 3 and 4, assure that the road is eye-level, and that your wheel is flush with your elbow and not set too high or too low. Again, the most important thing is to avoid negative effects of bad posture at work.

Understanding Your Unique Bio-Mechanics

In layman’s terms, bio-mechanics is simply your body’s mechanics. This means understanding first what your individual capabilities are, and then what strain your body can and cannot handle. For instance, if you have trouble remaining seated for a long period of time, inquire if your company can provide you with a standing desk instead. That is the beauty of ergonomics: By altering your work-station you can complete work with more ease than if you were forced to remain in an unfit condition, as well as prevent possible injury.

Incorporating Preventive Care

Your body will get put through a lot during your time on the workforce. In addition to incorporating workplace ergonomics, assure that you are maintaining your own standard of health and safety. For some, this may mean eating a diet that incorporates less sugar and routinely exercising. However, one of the most effective ways of staying on top of preventive care is by routinely visiting your chiropractor.

By maintaining proper spinal health, your entire system of muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves can work harmoniously. When your body is in sync, chances are your work routine will be increasingly less stressful.

For effective preventive care and further workplace ergonomic tips for your specific needs, visit a ChiroCare of Florida office today.

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