Safety Articles

Article # 10113

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics - (ur-ga-'no-miks): n. Greek term for "the laws of work." The science of adapting workstations, tools, equipment and job techniques to be compatible with the human anatomy to reduce the risk of injury due to occupational stressors. The goal of ergonomics is simple: Reduce the physical, repetitive stressors caused by force, frequency and position - main factors in cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). In other words, fitting the job to the worker rather than fitting the worker to the job. One look around any work area and it's clear workers come in a variety of shapes and sizes. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work. The workplace needs to accommodate for these differences. For example, a taller worker may be able to comfortably reach for every tool in the work area. However, if the worker during the next shift is smaller in height, he/she will have to strain to get the tool. Overtime, the day-in and day-out reaching activities will put a real strain on the neck, arms, shoulders and back. The human body also has physical limitations. A wrist cannot withstand performing long hours of repetitive motions. The back cannot tolerate excessive lifting, bending, twisting, turning, pushing and pulling movements. Workers feel the affects of such tasks physically and emotionally through aches, pains and strains, or repetitive stress injuries. Employers feel them through increased worker's compensation claims, higher medical costs, lost time from work and employee productivity. Ergonomic redesign should always be the primary abatement strategy; however, personal support products and ergonomic office accessories can play an integral role in reducing on-the-job injuries when used as part of a comprehensive approach to worker safety. Personal support products and ergonomic accessories are effective in the following scenarios:
• As an interim approach until other intermediate and long-term strategies, such as engineering and
administrative controls, can be implemented.
• In situations where other abatement strategies are not feasible or practical, such as patient care, construction
or delivery settings.
• As a control in the event other ergonomic systems fail.