It is a common misconception that ergonomic intervention ends up being expensive because of all the equipment you have to buy after you have an assessment. But ergonomics is definitely not just equipment! A very large part of ergonomic intervention involves procedural changes, not equipment changes. For example, many office workers are advised to:
- Change the layout on their desks (e.g. place the phone close to the computer, keep files used often on the desk surface) to avoid unnecessary reaching and twisting;
- Lower their armrests so they can pull in close to their desks and avoid back strain, while also avoiding hand and arm discomfort from using arm rests when typing;
- No longer sit at their desk for more than one hour without a 5-minute break;
- Avoid overtime hours;
- Sit with their backs against the backrest to relieve muscle strain.
Workers in a warehouse/factory environment are advised to:
- Place one foot on a ledge 6-8 inches high to relieve back pressure when standing in one place;
- Lift boxes properly between the knees and with a straight back;
- Evaluate the weight and bulkiness of lifting containers – reduce number of items in the containers or use smaller containers;
- Try Job Rotation – Come up with a plan to change jobs with another worker or several other workers so that muscles get a break doing a different job. Change on the hour or every two.
- Try Job Enlargement – For example, when assembling car parts. Instead of one person putting one screw in and the next person attaching a wire and the next person packing the part in a box, have each person do all three tasks so the job has more varied tasks with less repetition (this also decreases monotony);
- Take shorter, more frequent breaks to allow muscles to rest and recover.
In Part II of this post, I will highlight inexpensive modifications that can be used in a variety of workplaces to help reduce fatigue and discomfort.