6 Tips on Improving Workplace Ergonomics and How to Implement It
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes
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"If your typing slows down, the special ergonomic keyboard injects coffee directly into your fingertips."
It is a dialogue from one of the cartoons drawn by Randy Glasbergen. It sounds cool, but unfortunately, ergonomics doesn’t work this way. Perhaps, let's just take it as a metaphorical line. If you are using a genuinely ergonomic keyboard, it can really aid the hands of workers in typing properly and at the right pace.
Some people think that it's enough if they are purchasing office items with "ergonomic" labels or bear claims that they are made for ergonomics. But the truth is, you have to follow ergonomics tips from professional ergonomists.
The safety ergonomics tips from a credible source will enhance your workplace's conduciveness and comfortability. You will also see how your employees love the company more because they feel happy and healthy to work!
If you follow these tips for ergonomics in the workplace, expect more employee productivity and retention at your company.
How to improve ergonomics in the workplace
Sometimes, good ergonomics is overlooked while considering possible job hazards because injuries brought on by its absence in a workplace are less visible than those brought on by falls from great heights or exposure to hazardous substances.
If the dangers that cause ergonomic injuries are not under control, they might have an equally negative impact on the workplace. This is why you should consider best ergonomics practices.
Here are some straightforward tips you can follow to improve your workplace ergonomics:
1. Redesign the tasks
This addresses the risks of repetitive movements, like typing, scanning groceries, stapling papers, writing, hammering, and more.
Before discussing redesigning tasks, let's define a task or job design. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) defines it as the organization of a set of duties or entire employment. Job design helps to determine the following:
- What tasks should be done
- How the tasks should be done
- How many tasks should be done
- The arrangement of the tasks
Now, what is task redesigning? It considers all factors that influence the work and organizes the content and assignments so that the entire job poses less danger to the employee. Here are the ways to redesign tasks:
This means that you should move employees between different tasks so that they experience variety instead of monotony. For example, Employee A who works on cleaning the pantry should be replaced by Employee B at a specific time. Then, Employee A proceeds to another task.
This means increasing the scope of a job so that employees also learn other things. For example, an employee who only does a typing job could also do some research so he can avoid typing for the whole day.
Work breaks and working hours
According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE), when a worker's daily working time exceeds six hours, he or she is allowed a 20-minute undisturbed break. It should be taken during working hours and should not be taken at the beginning or conclusion of a working day. Working Time Regulations 1998, Regulation 10, provide that a worker is allowed 11 consecutive hours of leisure in each 24-hour time in which he works for his boss.
These are the ways of redesigning tasks that can eliminate repetitive movements. Easy to apply, right? By doing these things, you can help them protect their musculoskeletal health.
2. Regulate temperature
Regulating the temperature will avoid an excessively hot or cold work area. Extremely cold temperature reduces sensation, blood flow, and force. Then heat increases exhaustion or fatigue.
Regulate the temperature as much as possible and let them protect their bodies from the cold by wearing gloves and warm clothes. You must also allow breaks and provide them with fresh water in hot conditions.
According to HSE, how you deal with the impacts of temperature depends on the following:
- whether the workplace is outdoors or indoors
- the typical operating temperature of that location
For example, the lowest temperature for indoor work should usually be at least 16°C or 13°C if a lot of the work is hard physical labor.
For operating in hot temperatures, there is no rule because each job is different. No real upper limit can be set because, in many indoor workplaces, like bakeries and factories, high temperatures are not caused by the weather but by the work itself.
Nonetheless, employers must comply with health and safety at work law, which mandates:
- maintaining a temperature that is tolerable for humans or that is still comfortable
- allowing fresh air circulation and a clean atmosphere
If your employees are complaining about or getting sick because of the temperature at work, you should look into the situation and, if necessary, put rules in place to handle the risks.
3. Use adjustable furniture
Adjustable pieces of furniture, like chairs and workstations or tables, allow good postures and eliminate body pains. Their chairs and tables should be adjustable as much as possible to make room for neutral postures.
It is important for companies to look at how people sit at work to see what could hurt or hurt someone. For example, back pain is a regular issue that can be caused by seats that can't be adjusted.
Employers need to think about the needs of the person, the type of work being done, and the size of the desk when picking or evaluating seating designs. There are simple basic considerations that can be done to make sure seats are safe and fit:
- Is the chair comfortable for the length of time it will be used?
- Is the back properly supported?
- Is the upholstery supportive and comfy enough?
- Are the edges padded and shaped enough to keep their thighs from getting uncomfortable pressure?
- Are there sufficient variety and adjustment ranges on the chair?
- Do the armrests enable the user to move the chair forward far enough?
- Are the armrests appropriate for the job and workstation?
- Are footrests necessary, and if so, what kind are they?
- Are there any special chair features that the user needs?
When people are running machines or keeping an eye on them, it may not always be possible to give them a normal chair. When it's possible, companies should provide some kind of safe and comfortable seating.
For the workstation, the design should be based on a careful look at all parts of the job and any special needs of that worker. Make sure that each job can be done as quickly, safely, and easily as possible. Furthermore, wheelchair users may need their workstations widened and raised.
4. Engage in exercise
Allow your employees to take time to move, work out, or do stretching. It will help them maintain their strength, increase their cardiovascular fitness, and relieve the pressure of sedentary computer use.
The most important and basic exercise they can do daily is stretching, which helps soothe their thoughts and tune their bodies simultaneously. These are the main advantages:
- Relieves muscle tension
- Boosts cardiorespiratory function
- Enhances body awareness
- Procreates a good effect of the exercises to follow (if there is more time to do so)
Even if they only exercise for 15–30 minutes a day, it's best to do it every day. Let them maintain their composure and keep it consistent. It will take some time before they start to experience the advantages of working out.
5. Reduce work stress
Machine-paced work (includes a lot of special tools and systems for moving/accomplishing things), insufficient breaks, monotonous tasks, numerous targets, poor work structure, or poor supervision are examples.
Caring for your employees' mental health is one of the best ergonomic practices. This is done by setting a realistic workload, allowing them to take adequate pauses, and rotating their responsibilities.
6. Practice good posture
Posture is the way the body is positioned. Good posture puts the body's structures (bones, ligaments, and muscles) in places where they can handle the most stress and make sure that the biggest muscle groups do the work that needs the most force.
Good posture can be negatively impacted by engaging in activities such as stooping, reaching, crouching, squatting, or twisting for an extended period of time.
The basic guidelines for minimizing awkward postures are as follows:
- Allow work to be done with the joints near the middle of their range of motion
- Lessen the time spent holding and repeating awkward postures
- Avoid holding a static position for extended amounts of time
It's critical to understand that your employees' posture can have a significant influence on their health and well-being, as well as their ability to flourish at work.
The above tips you can follow to improve ergonomics in your workplace are just some of the many things you can do. Remember that the requirements depend on your workplace, and you will only know its ergonomic requirements once you use professional tools.
How to implement ergonomics in the workplace
The implementation of ergonomics entails identifying, evaluating, analyzing ergonomic risks, engaging in programs, and more. To be specific, there are seven steps to fulfill a successful implementation.
According to the Victoria State Government Department of Education, successful ergonomics implementation in the workplace also entails reporting to health and safety representatives or workplace managers if an ergonomic issue is identified. Early reporting can assist in avoiding or limiting the progression of symptoms, the development of significant injuries, and subsequent lost-time claims by accelerating the work evaluation and improvement process.
Here are the steps on how to apply ergonomics in the workplace:
Step 1: Determine risk factors
This step involves learning about workers at risk for work-related musculoskeletal disorders (WMDs) and the condition of the workplaces that put them at risk.
Depending on your location, you can look for the history of WMSDs with the help of an organization (like OSHA) or the medical records of your employees in the company.
Examples of risk factors:
- awkward postures
- twisting their bodies and carrying loads
- wrist bending, overhead motions
- whole body vibrations
These should be changed into an ergonomic-friendly work environment.
Step 2: Train your management and employees
Training in ergonomics would be advantageous for all people who are exposed to factors that lead to MSDs. Employees understand their occupations better than anybody else, so they must be given the opportunity to discuss issues when they arise.
The management, not just the workers, must understand ergonomics to detect and handle concerns accurately. They can all benefit from ergonomics training to identify risk factors for WMSDs, detect the signs and symptoms of WMSDs, and devise measures to decrease and prevent WMSDs.
Examples of training services:
- online ergonomic training
- face-to-face ergonomic training
- training the trainers
Step 3: Implement ergonomic programs
Start with the solutions your employees will easily understand and follow. Keep in mind that successful basic solutions can give you the confidence and experience you need to solve more difficult MSD concerns.
In implementing programs, you need to follow a hierarchy of controls. It entails substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls, and personal protective equipment.
Examples of programs:
- hazard prevention
- medical administration
- education and training
- worksite evaluation
Step 4: Assess the ergonomic programs
Follow up on your actions to guarantee that the controls you put in place lessen or get rid of the risk factors for WMSD. Ensure that no new risk factors for WMSDs are made.
New and returning workers must adjust to repeated tasks like paced work on a short conveyor line or timed item picking.
An example of evaluation is checking with workers one week and one month after deployment because they may be sore from doing their jobs differently and using new muscle groups.
Step 5: Promote recovery
Encourage employee recovery through effective management of health care and return-to-work programs. Work-related injuries and disabilities are linked to bad health and social effects, such as a lower quality of life, job loss, less money over a lifetime, injuries to family caregivers, and dying too soon.
A recent study funded by NIOSH found that workers who get major injuries that keep them from working for days are more likely to die sooner than those whose injuries only need medical treatment.
Examples of promoting recovery:
- selecting a healthcare provider trained in treating WMDs
- changing their jobs
- limiting their tasks
- giving them a temporary transfer
Step 6: Maintain the commitment
Management dedication is critical to the effectiveness of musculoskeletal health awareness training and WMSD programs.
On the other hand, worker participation is influenced by the type of the WMSD problem, the skills and abilities of those engaged, and the company's procedures for addressing workplace problems.
An example of staying committed to the implementation is communicating one's ergonomic concerns to the proper authorities.
Implementing ergonomics in the workplace is not always easy, but some professionals can make it seamless. Just follow the ergonomic tips for the workplace, and you will understand the implementation process better.
Ergonomic Tips and Implementation in a Nutshell
As the CEO or business owner, you must only get ergonomic recommendations from trusted sources and reliable specialists. Aside from mentioned tips, you should also get to know your employees.
But to specify your own goals for your company, ask yourself first, "how can ergonomics help my workplace?"
More efficient employees will become more productive, allowing your organization to produce more without adding time and personnel. Less exhaustion also leads to fewer errors. Furthermore, fewer injuries result in fewer sick days or the presence of employees who are unable to contribute at their regular level. The ergo safety tips unveiled by this article will help you and your company grow healthily and successfully. It will then lower the usage of health insurance and the number of workers' compensation claims.
Employees who are healthier and don't feel any pain are also happier, which leads to improved morale. You will be amazed by their enhanced productivity because of the safety ergonomic tips. Also, employees who are happy and healthy are less likely to quit your company, and lower turnover saves resources that might otherwise be spent on recruiting and training replacements. This is simply a byproduct of keeping your workers healthy through ergonomics.