Poor ergonomics in the workplace can cause musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). Musculoskeletal disorders are injuries of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs. These types of injuries and disorders can take years to heal, and they're associated with high costs to businesses.
If you're unsure if your workspace is ergonomically designed, then it might be time to conduct an ergonomic assessment.
What is an Ergonomic Assessment?
Ergonomic assessments identify ergonomic risks in the workplace. The assessment is conducted by qualified professionals, while employees complete their normal day-to-day tasks. These assessments highlight ergonomic issues from poor workstations, to posture, equipment and the overall working environment.
Workstation Ergonomic Assessment
There are many parts to a workstation that have an impact on ergonomics. Ensuring the equipment fits the worker, and the tasks they perform are all part of the assessment.
People who spend most of their day in front of a computer screen are most at risk of musculoskeletal injuries. Repetitive motions, such as typing are common in offices and can strain muscles and tendons - causing back pain, vision problems, pain in elbows, wrists and hands.
An ergonomic workstation assessment can ensure their setup is ideal for their body shape and type of work.
The ideal ergonomic desk is one that can be easily altered, so workers have the choice between sitting and standing throughout the workday. Ensure the desk can be raised high enough for tall workers and won’t tip when someone leans on the edge.
A good quality desk has enough room that all equipment can be placed at an ideal distance. It should also be strong and sturdy, so there is no risk of equipment falling off.
Ergonomic chairs are one of the most important pieces of ergonomic equipment because they impact on all of the body’s muscles and joints. An ergonomic chair will have at least five adjustment points, so the chair can be altered to fit the worker’s body shape. Adjustable lumbar support for the lower back helps reduce lower back pain. The arm width and height, seat back height and the angle of the seat, as well as the chair’s height, all combine to make a comfortable chair.
During the ergonomic assessment, the chair may need adjusting to suit the owner and the way they work. An employee may need to be shown what each of the chair’s levers does and how to adjust the different parts of the chair.
For those workers that can’t comfortably place both feet flat on the floor while sitting, need a footstool.
All workers are different heights therefore the height of the computer screen should be different. An assessment can check that the top of the monitor is at or slightly below the worker’s eye level.
Position of Equipment
An ergonomic assessment can also look at the way we work. The assessment will check that often-used equipment is within easy reach. Files that are used daily shouldn’t be placed in over-head cupboards as it increases the risk of shoulder injuries. By rearranging a workstation, you can reduce the chance of workers suffering an injury. Not all workers will realise that they are stretching unnecessarily for their mouse or the telephone.
Eyesight problems are common in office workers. They need lighting that isn’t too bright or dull to see the screen properly. Overhead lighting that casts a shadow is disruptive, and glare on computer screens can cause a worker to sit in an unnatural position to avoid it.
If the overhead lighting isn’t sufficient, desk lighting may be needed.
An ergonomic assessment doesn’t just look at equipment. Air quality is just as important for comfort. It should be filtered by clean air conditioners and be free of cigarette smoke, and particles that can cause allergies. The temperature of the room is also important for the comfort of workers.
Injury and musculoskeletal disorders led to 90% of serious work-related injury claims in 2014–15. The most common were traumatic joint/ligament and muscle/tendon injuries (almost 45%). People often think of manual handling tasks causing injury, but it’s often caused by sitting for long periods, performing repetitive tasks like typing.
Sitting for hours causes strains in muscles and joints, particularly the back and neck. An ergonomic assessment can identify the risks and make changes to avoid worker injuries.
Workers That Do Manual Handling Tasks
Exerting too much force while pushing, pulling or shifting can cause muscle and joint injuries. Some employees do manual handling tasks in the workplace. An ergonomic assessment will identify if employees have the right equipment and knowledge to avoid injury while completing the tasks.
Often employees who don’t do any manual handling all day, suffer an injury when they pick up a box incorrectly or shift a piece of equipment as a one-off. An ergonomic assessment can reveal which employees need OHS training (regardless of their role) to keep them safe from manual handling injuries.
Making it Stick
Good ergonomic practices are learned. It doesn’t come naturally to sit with good posture or know how to adjust a workstation to best fit your body shape and tasks. Employees need to be taught all of this. An ergonomic assessment is the first step to making these practices stick. With the right professional advice, in the beginning, your employees will know what to look out for and how they can start making improvements.
There’s a lot to remember when it comes to ergonomics. When you’re busy working, it’s all too easy to slip back into bad habits. If workers have a checklist they can readily refer to throughout the day, it ensures they don’t complete tasks or movements incorrectly that could cause an injury.
Workplace ergonomics is part of everyone’s role, not just OHS staff. Ergonomic risks can be greatly reduced when workers know what to look for and how to modify their behaviour to protect their health. Get everyone in your workplace involved so they can learn to assess every situation and make the necessary changes to keep themselves safe.
Ergonomic assessments can make the difference between a workplace being high risk for workers safety and low risk.
Assistance with Ergonomic Advice
If you would like to organise an ergonomic assessment, we are happy to provide you with a list of independent qualified professionals who will be closest to your workplace. The right professional advice is always key, and we want you and your team to be looked after properly. Call us today on (08) 9240 7066 or contact us online.