Ergonomics, which in this case refers to how people and their work fit together, is all about putting people first, making sure their capabilities and limitations are considered. An ergonomic workplace therefore, is an environment which is tailored to suit those needs, resulting in a more efficient, comfortable, and safe place of work. But how is this achieved?
There are plenty of ways to make your workplace more ergonomic, but to get you started, here are WA Management’s top ten tips!
1. Consider The Layout of Controls, Signs & Equipment
When deciding how to set up your workplace, be mindful of the placement of important controls, signals and equipment. Make sure that controls and equipment that are frequently used are easily accessible, without needing to hunch, bend, stoop or stretch to reach them. Signs, particularly in hazardous industries, must be clear and not overwhelming – too much information may cause mistakes to be made, which in some workplaces is extremely dangerous.
2. Ensure Good Lighting Conditions
Good lighting is essential for reducing eye strain and avoiding neck pain caused by sitting at an awkward angle to avoid glare.
If possible, natural lighting is ideal as the daylight and outdoor views it provides not only give your eyes a chance to relax (try using the 20-20-20 rule at your desk – look away from your screen every 20 minutes, at something about 20 feet away, for 20 seconds), but can also improve general wellbeing, energy and mood.
However, you must make sure that any display screen equipment is free from reflective glare, as this can worsen eye strain, causing headaches and fatigue.
Your workplace should have sufficient lighting so that everything is clearly visible (with appropriate contrast between the lighting and the light emitted by any display screen equipment), but should also not be so bright that it is headache-inducing.
3. Good Working Posture
When sitting at a desk, workers’ hands, wrists, and forearms should be approximately horizontal, inline with each other, and parallel to the floor. Their head should be facing forward and inline with their torso, and they should not need to turn to see any monitors – we’ll explore how workstation equipment can be used in our next few tips!
If you don’t work in an office environment, you still need to be aware of your posture – for example, if you have a more physical job that requires you to carry out manual handling tasks (more on this later!), poor posture could lead to injuries such as musculoskeletal disorders.
4. Invest in an Ergonomic Chair and Desk
If you or your workers spend the majority of your working day at a desk, it is well worth investing in good quality equipment.
An ergonomic chair should encourage a good sitting position, ideally with adjustable height, arm rest, lumbar support, and seat pan depth settings.
In the same vein, an adjustable desk is the best choice when outfitting an office – allowing the user to tailor the height to suit them so they can work comfortably and maintain proper posture. For some workplaces, an adjustable-height standing desk may be a good fit, as these allow you to change the height by slight increments and make it easy to regularly change your posture throughout the day by switching between sitting and standing.
5. Ensure Display Screen Equipment Users Have Proper Display Height & Distance
The top of any monitors or screens should be the same height as the user’s eye level, and should be approximately an arm’s length away. A display screen equipment user should not have to squint to view the screen, not should they need to move their neck up, down, left or right to view their display.
6. Ensure Display Screen Equipment Users Have Proper Keyboard & Mouse Position
Keyboards should have space in front of them to ensure users’ arms and wrists can stay straight, and so that they can rest their hands and wrists when not typing. A wrist rest may help to improve your arm position.
The mouse should be kept within easy reach so the wrist can be kept straight when using it. By sitting upright and close to the desk, you can reduce the amount you need to stretch to use the mouse.
7. Avoid Manual Handling Tasks Which Place Unreasonable Demands on the Worker
Most workplaces will require manual handling tasks to be undertaken to some extent. Employers have a responsibility to protect their workers from risk of injury from hazardous manual handling tasks. Where possible tasks that place unreasonable physical strain on the worker, such as moving loads that are too heavy, too bulky, or are an awkward shape, should be avoided in order to prevent injury.
8. Reduce Repetitive Movement
Whether you work in a sedentary or a physical job, repetitive movement puts you at increased risk of musculoskeletal disorders. In an office environment, repetitive motion (such as continual typing) can cause stress on your muscles and can lead to injury. Similarly, physical jobs such as those that involve frequent repetitive lifting, may lead to lower back pain or injury to the arms, hands, or fingers.
This can be combated by changing tasks, as even going something else for a short amount of time can reduce the risk of injury.
9. Ensure Workers Have Adequate Breaks and a Reasonable Schedule
By planning the working day to allow for sufficient breaks, workers will have the chance to recover between tasks – whether it be from eye strain from working at a computer, or from physical straining from manual handling tasks.
By managing shifts so that workers have a reasonable schedule, workers will have enough time to rest before their next shift, and will have more time to handle their domestic responsibilities along with their work life.
Without proper scheduling, workers may become exhausted, increasing the likelihood of accidents and poor health.
10. Create a Low-Stress Environment
A common response to stress and anxiety is muscle tension – this can make working even more difficult and uncomfortable and can lead to muscle pain, predominantly in the neck, shoulders and spine. Creating a relaxing working environment will not only lead to happier, more productive workers, but can also reduce the risk of injury as well!
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