All workplaces should aim to be as ergonomic as possible in order to prevent the development of health conditions and to improve workplace productivity and safety. But what exactly does ergonomics cover, and what actions should be implemented?
What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics concerns itself with the ‘fit’ between people and their work.
On average we will spend 13 years of our life at work… to put that in comparison we spend on average one third of our life asleep. While people do not hesitate to spend money on expensive mattresses and technology to guarantee themselves the best night sleep possible, people are somewhat more reluctant to spend when it comes to ergonomics.
The average employee working 8 hours a day for 5 days a week will spend 2040 hours at work every year. Such a substantial amount of time demands that we make considerations to ensure our working conditions are as ergonomic as possible – after all, 2040 hours is ample time for a multitude of health conditions to develop.
If you are reading this I am sure you know of someone who has complained of suffering migraines, having a bad back or painful joints, and it is more than likely their working conditions have played a role in the development of these issues. The physical impact of lack of consideration for ergonomics is well understood however ergonomics, also known as human factors, concerns itself with the ‘fit’ between people and their work and this fit considers tasks, working equipment, information environment considerations.
What Should You Consider for Ergonomics?
As an employer you must be aware of a multitude of human factors which can impact an employee’s ability to carry out their role. An example of some of these factors are as follows:
- Body size and shape
- Fitness and strength
- The senses, especially vision, hearing and touch
- Mental abilities
Consideration of these factors can help reduce the potential for accidents, injury and ill health and improve performance and productivity. But how exactly do you effectively consider ergonomics?
Considering Ergonomics Effectively
- Review existing data and any past ergonomic assessments.
- For example, previous DSE (Display Screen Equipment) Assessments may have revealed than an employee suffers from back pain due to an unsuitable chair which offers no lumbar support.
- Speak to employees.
- Getting an understanding of their mental ability and personality can help you make judgements on what approach is best for them. For example, investing in software which is designed intuitively and does not confuse the user will reduce the risk of employees becoming stressed and improve performance.
- Abide by your legal duties.
- Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must assess the risks to health and safety of their workers. This instrument helps underpin more specific legislation, such as the Workplace (Health Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 which places duties on employers to ensure that factors such as lighting and heating do not negatively impact employees.
- Continually review
- Just as a job role may change with time, the risks employees are exposed to will change over time. This will mean that programs of annual assessments may be put in place to continually review how humans’ factors impact workplace health and safety. For example, the deterioration of an employee’s eyesight may mean that a workstation may need modifying to make controls more visible.
The topic of Ergonomics & Human Factors is far reaching and cannot be remedied by a quick fix or a single piece of equipment. It requires a constant consideration of an employee’s situation and an understanding of the topic and most importantly a willingness to act upon findings and apply the necessary correction. To learn more, get enrolled on our courses below and have a read of our accompanying Ergonomics blog here.
For advice, risk assessments and more, feel free to get in touch – let us help you improve your workplace ergonomics!
Written by Jack Stevens, SHEQ Consultant at WA Management.
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