Ergonomics has been defined as the science of designing the workplace to conform to a worker, rather than the other way around. When most people hear the word ergonomics, they think about having a desk and a comfortable chair at the right height.
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But ergonomics encompasses a lot more than this. It extends to the entire workplace and the physical environment. Anything that can lead to injury or cause physical discomfort falls under the category of ergonomics. Yes, it covers adjusting chairs correctly and wearing back braces, but it also encompasses things like good lighting, room temperature, drinking water availability, clean restrooms, and machinery that is well maintained.
It can have a big impact on workers’ productivity and their overall health. Ergonomically deficient workplaces can lead to a number of health issues, including things like tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, back injuries, colds, heat stroke, eye strain, headaches and other maladies. One-third of all injuries involve strains and sprains – injuries that are ergonomically related.
Illnesses and injuries caused by problem workplaces can lead to worker absences and reduced productivity. But a workplace that is unsafe or uncomfortable can also lead to another unwanted result – higher turnover. No one wants to work in an unhealthy workplace. So an ergonomically safe workplace is more than just a nice thing to have, but a key component in retaining workers as well.
So, the workplace setup is important ergonomically. But just as important is educating workers about ergonomically proper procedures.
For example, companies should help train employees about things like proper chair height, posture when sitting at a desk, using a keyboard, and how to avoid eye strain. Employees who do more physical kinds of work need to trained on how to lift objects properly and how to wear a back brace.
Companies should also help remote workers ensure that their work environment is ergonomically sound. That means finding out employees’ work arrangements at home and offering suggestions for improvements. For example, are they using a chair and desk or working on the couch? If they are working on a couch, do they know that it is not good for a person’s back?
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