One major aspect about working safely is to do what you can manage. As a supervisor working on a construction job site, that’s what ergonomics is all about: fitting the right task to the person to help them reduce risk of injury. Too many times, employees find themselves having to perform jobs that can leave them exposed to injuries and illnesses due to factors like poor workstation designs. Employing proper ergonomics during work activities can not only help you stay safe but usually helps you find ways to do your work in better ways.
So let’s talk ergonomics. Here’s five things you need to know.
1) MSDs a.k.a musculoskeletal disorders are something you should be worried about. They slowly develop over time and the soft tissues in your body - the nerves, tendons, muscles, ligaments and joints - are the most susceptible to them. Injuries like carpal tunnel and tendonitis are prime examples of MSDs and these injuries start in phases.
2) Pay attention to the phases and risks MSDs carry. It’s fair to say you won’t take it seriously at first. The phases of MSD start with mild discomfort and only begin to increase in severity if you keep returning to the same, strenuous activities with no breaks. At some point, your body will no longer be able to recover. One way to do this is to avoid ergonomic risk factors, characteristics that can be a major factor of stress upon your body. The three major factors involve force (how much you lift, push and pull), repetition and your body posture. Contact stress and vibration are also common hazards that can wreck havoc upon the body if left unchecked.
3) Be aware of what your job entails. Recognizing the potential risks that occur in job activities can help you gauge if a task is difficult to pull off. If that's the case, think about different solutions that can make the job easier to do. If you're required to lift a heavy load, enlist someone's help in assisting you and don't forget to use your legs, not your back. Use tools that can reduce shock or come with vibration dampers.
4) Rotate job tasks when you can. It helps to reduce repetitiveness and fatigue so it goes without saying that you should be taking scheduled breaks and paying attention to your level of fatigue because that plays a big part in how much energy you’ll exert in performing tasks.
5) If you’re a manager or employer, some things you can do at the workplace include providing ergonomic training for your staff on recognizing the primary risks and conducting assessments to identify major trouble spots. Creating job descriptions can help determine the risk factors associated and you can use that to make a decision on what to improve upon, whether that's buying new tools or changing the routine involved with the task. Most importantly, pay attention to which jobs are too demanding for your workers. If you can make effective changes with ergonomics in mind, the quality of work will increase and so will the health of your workers, an effective win-win for all involved.