Following ergonomic safety practices at work and at home greatly reduces your risk of suffering from the painful cumulative damage that stress and strain places on your body.
Ergonomic Safety Principles
Ergonomic principles of safety refer to making sure that the products and methods a worker uses are a correct match to the worker's specific job and personal capabilities. The importance of ensuring that a worker and the conditions and demands of their job setting are a good fit has a tremendous impact on both workers and the companies that employ them. Generally, when ergonomic principles and practices are followed there is:
- A reduced risk of illnesses and injuries
- Higher productivity levels
- A greater sense of satisfaction among the employees
Ergonomic Risk Factors
Often when people hear the term ergonomics they think of an office setting with an ergonomic chair and computer keyboard. However, ergonomic risk factors exist in many different types of workplaces, as well as in homes and home offices. Examples of risk factors include jobs that require:
- Repetitive, forceful or prolonged use of the fingers, wrist or hands
- Excessive, repetitive or constant stress on any part of the body
- Sitting in one position for long periods of time
- Heavy lifting
- Frequent lifting
- Carrying, pulling or pushing heavy objects
- Prolonged positions requiring postures that are uncomfortable or awkward
- Working in areas with constant vibrations
- Working in extreme hot or cold temperatures
The resulting injuries develop over time and are known as repetitive stress injuries or cumulative stress disorders that result in injuries to the worker's musculoskeletal system often resulting in chronic painful conditions including:
- Back pain
- Neck pain
- Pain between the shoulders
- Muscle strains
- Weakness in an arm, hand or fingers
- A tingling sensation in an arm, hand or fingers
- Loss of feeling in an arm, hand or fingers
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Tennis elbow
- Eye strain
Ergonomic Computer Safety Tips
Whether you are at home or at your workplace the following ergonomic safety tips will help reduce your chances of injury while working at your computer.
- Choose a padded chair that is adjustable, strong and stable. Set it at the proper height for you, adjusting it to the length of your legs and the height of your computer desk or work area. The chair should have good support for your upper and lower back that is comfortable.
- Your monitor should be positioned at your eye level or slightly below to reduce neck strain. Position the monitor to avoid glare which results in eye strain.
- Position your keyboard slightly lower than your desk and slightly in front of you. Avoid putting constant pressure on your wrists when using your keyboard or your mouse.
- Sit up straight with good posture and feet flat on the floor. Allow room for you to stretch your legs.
- Take time for breaks.
- Choose ergonomic products such as an office chair, computer keyboard and mouse.
More Safety Tips
As you go throughout your day, you can utilize ergonomic safety practices in many areas by:
- Arranging work areas so that you do not have to overstretch. Keep the things that you use most often within reach and below shoulder height.
- Using tools that are made to fit the size of your hand.
- Using kneepads when gardening and doing other jobs that require kneeling
- Wearing a back brace or support belt when lifting or moving heavy objects or doing a strenuous task
- Wearing a headset when talking on the telephone for extended lengths of time
- Bending or squatting at the knees when lifting something heavy
There are many resources regarding ergonomic safety recommendations for specific industries and others that focus on ergonomic products or safety issues including:
- The United States Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides specific ergonomic safety guidelines for workers in shipyards, poultry processing plants, meatpacking plants, retail grocery stores, and nursing homes.
- The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
- Ergonomic Specialties
Computer Ergonomics and the Safety of Children
Generally ergonomic safety concerns center on the workplace. However, it is very important that parents, teachers and child care workers are aware of how children work at computers. In many instances, children are working and playing on computers designed and set up for adults. They are constantly looking up to monitors, stretching to reach the keyboard and mouse while often sitting or kneeling in awkward positions. With the proper chair adjustments, a footstool for leg support and other simple adaptations, a child can sit at a computer in a safe and comfortable position.