Ergonomics intervention doesn’t have to be pricey – Part I

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.

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