What Is Ergonomics In The Workplace?

Ergonomics in the workplace is the science of workplace design focused on limiting workplace injuries, worker fatigue, and frustration. It is a cost-effective way of increasing productivity, morale, and wellness of employees while decreasing the risk of injuries and health disorders.

What is the meaning of ergonomics?

Ergonomics refers to the design of the workplace with the employee’s health and wellness in mind that avoids risks of injuries, improves productivity, and lowers medical costs and absenteeism. It is often described as a ‘fit’ between people and their work.

What are the 3 types of ergonomics?

There are 3 major areas of ergonomics – physical, cognitive, and organizational.

Physical ergonomics involves setting up workstations and workplace environments that limit the risks of musculoskeletal disorders that develop over time through overexertion, repetitive movements, and poor posture. Physical ergonomic improvements can significantly affect individual health and avoid injuries that cause employees to take absence from work and result in high medical compensation costs. 

Cognitive ergonomics involves designing user-friendly tools and products, providing training programs, brochures, and resources, and creating environments that allow workers to confidently fulfill their work responsibilities. A well-designed cognitive environment eliminates employee cognitive fatigue and leads to higher efficiency and productivity within the organization.

Lastly, organizational ergonomics focuses on the organization as a whole. Improving organizational ergonomics may involve establishing reliable communication between and within departments, building culture through team-building and participation, and designating reasonable work times. Organizational ergonomics increases work satisfaction and efficiency for all members of the organization.

Why is ergonomics important in the workplace?

Most workplace injuries are caused by non-impact activities, such as vibration, awkward postures, repetitive motion, and heavy lifting – the four main ergonomic risk factors. These injuries lead to high workers’ and medical compensation costs, employees taking absence from work for long periods of time, interruptions stemming from returning employees back to work, decreased work satisfaction, and damaged morale.

By creating ergonomic workplace environments, organizations save costs associated with medical injuries, increase the productivity of their employees, boost the morale and trust of their workers, and create a culture of wellness and safety. Companies can see significant ROIs on their ergonomic investments that derive from better quality products, decreased turnover, higher participation and loyalty, and lower medical expenses. 

What are some examples of ergonomics?

Some examples of ergonomics in the workplace include workstation design, improved habits, and support systems. The workstation can be improved by using standing desks, ergonomic keyboards and chairs, and individual monitor heights based on workers’ heights, which can all limit risks of MSDs and avoid physical fatigue. Training employees on ergonomic habits, such as good posture, wrist positions, and preventative stretches and exercises, can further eliminate the risks of any workplace injuries. When ergonomic problems appear, a company support team trained in the ergonomics process should be able to assist any department or individual to eliminate concerns or manage medical disorders. 

What are the four main ergonomic risk factors?

The four main ergonomic risk factors are vibration, awkward postures, repetitive motion, and heavy lifting. Workers may be susceptible to injuries if these factors aren’t eliminated as much as possible during the ergonomic improvement process

What are the four pillars of ergonomics?

The four pillars of ergonomics, also referred to as the ‘Four Pillars of Safety,’ are prepare, prevent, protect, and respond. When an ergonomic design is based on these pillars, the organization will have a support system in place that identifies any ergonomic problems, resolves them in a timely and organized manner, and manages any injuries that do happen. 

What are the 5 aspects of ergonomics?

The five major aspects of ergonomics are safety, comfort, ease of use, performance, productivity, and aesthetics. Workplaces designed with ergonomics in mind will create safe and enjoyable environments that eliminate risks of injury and increase productivity. 

Ergonomics Facts

The number one cause of workplace injuries is non-impact injuries, such as repetitive motion, poor posture, lifting, carrying, and pushing. The good news is that musculoskeletal injuries are highly preventable. The risks associated with these can be easily avoided by practicing good posture, utilizing standing desks, using proper form when lifting items, and exploring ergonomic keyboards and chairs. With an upfront investment into ergonomic training and tools, the most likely workplace injuries can be greatly reduced.

Office workers spend 95% of their work day at a desk, often slouching and straining to fit in an improper environment, which causes significant strain on the eyes, hands, neck, and back. Instead of improving the working environment, employees simply adapt to it, hurting their bodies and damaging their health as a result. The result is that 34% of all lost workday injuries and illnesses are the results of musculoskeletal disorders. Carpal tunnel syndrome accounts for 15% of all workplace injuries, and 42% of carpal tunnel cases lead to at least 30 days of work missed by the injured employee. These preventable injuries cause a huge dip in productivity, which on average can be improved by at least 11% with correct workplace ergonomics.

Good Ergonomics In The Workplace And Its Benefits

Costly injuries, poor productivity, and poor product quality can all be avoided by improving workplace design and implementing preventative factors.

  1. Musculoskeletal Disorders can be costly. About 30% of workers’ compensation costs are attributed to musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. The indirect costs of an injury can go even higher – up to 20 times. Improving ergonomics in the workplace is a long-term investment toward cost reduction. 
  2. Improving ergonomics leads to higher productivity. Of course, healthy employees are able to achieve better results. Higher efficiency can be witnessed almost immediately after implementing ergonomic enhancements. Workers become less frustrated and tired, experience higher job satisfaction, stay more focused, and produce higher quality results. 
  3. Ergonomics improves employee trust, reliability, and morale. When employees feel that their health and safety is cared for, their trust and motivation are increased. Companies notice that improved ergonomics reduce turnover and increase employee involvement.

Improve Ergonomics In A Cost Effective Way

The following plan for ergonomic culture within the workplace should help you improve ergonomics in your workplace effectively while reducing costs such as unnecessary changes, poor planning, and misinterpreted solutions.

Assess Current Ergonomic Problems Within The Workplace

It all starts with research and planning. Start by identifying which parts of the workplace can be improved. Look at the statistics of past MSD instances within the organization and single out positions that have been the most affected. Ask employees if they experience any pain or discomfort, and which tasks cause it. Walk around the workplace and identify any potential problems that catch your eye.

After you have determined all the possible tasks and positions that require attention, compile a list. Choose the most pressing items on the list – affect the most people, cause the most injuries, cause the most severe injuries, etc. 

Reduce Risk By Implementing Ergonomic Improvements

Involve your team of experts in designing and implementing ergonomic solutions. Your team of experts should already be trained in ergonomics and have all the resources and tools to implement ergonomic solutions. 

Verify Ergonomic Risk Reduction Within The Workplace

Go back and review. Determine whether the implemented changes have improved health and safety and show signs of ergonomic progress. Are the employees implementing better habits like good posture, standing/sitting, and using ergonomic equipment? Are statistics showing that musculoskeletal injuries have been reduced? Is productivity and job satisfaction going up?

If you find that the ergonomic solutions which have been implemented aren’t showing the expected results, go back to the identification process. Perhaps the statistics have been misconstrued or the solution doesn’t apply to the specific problem. Involve the key ergonomic team members in identifying a new direction. 

Manage The Injuries

Your ergonomics team of experts should already have the resources and skills to help manage injuries in the most effective and efficient manner. Make sure that everyone who is struggling with a musculoskeletal injury receives help. This will help employees return to work sooner and grow the wellness culture within the organization.

Maintain The Sustainability Of Your Ergonomics Program

Make sure that all the team members involved in the ergonomics process have access to the latest research and resources. Keep the ergonomics thinking aligned within your organization. Initial improvements will greatly reduce any risks, but more work will need to be done in the future. Assure that all the key roles and responsibilities are filled. Give attention to your ergonomics program – it will pay you back manifold. 

Training For Ergonomics In Workplace

Before starting the process of training, consider studying and understanding the topic in-depth yourself. You can find a lot of information online, as well as attend online courses that will help you learn how to identify and resolve ergonomic risks. Once you have educated yourself, set up a clear plan that defines the ergonomic improvement process, standards by which it will be measured, and the roles and responsibilities of the people involved. Make a list of learning objectives and create training content based on these objectives. 

You will want to train the managers first. Educate senior managers and those responsible for managing the ergonomic process on goals and expectations for ergonomic improvements. The next step is building a small team of resident experts who will provide the support needed to all members of the organization during all ergonomic efforts. This team should include the ergonomic team members, engineering, maintenance, and workers’ and medical compensation personnel. This team will be responsible for addressing the ergonomic challenges when such arise, so they will need to have the skills and knowledge necessary to accomplish the organization’s ergonomic goals. The ergonomic team members will be responsible for identifying ergonomic risks and facilitating improvement efforts. Provide the members with tools and methods for risk assessment, teach them the skills of identifying the underlying causes of ergonomic problems, and share a clear process for implementing change.

The engineering and maintenance personnel will be assisting the ergonomic team members re-actively, by improving existing workplaces, and proactively, by ensuring that any future devices and equipment do not pose an ergonomic risk to the workforce. For these members to succeed, they need to have access to any available tools and resources to design and install work environments that minimize exposure to ergonomic risk factors.

The organization’s medical and workers’ compensation personnel will help deal with and manage any work-related musculoskeletal disorders if they occur, which will allow injured employees to return to work faster and reduce organizational costs. They need to be educated on the current practices of managing injuries.

Once the key people and the processes are established, share these resources with supervisors and employees. Help supervisors understand their role in assisting in the implementation of ergonomic improvements, and provide employees with training on identifying ergonomic issues in the workplace. The supervisors and employees should also receive awareness training that defines ergonomics and its benefits and explains the responsibility of determining ergonomic risks. Ensure that employees understand the process of implementing ergonomic changes or escalate issues to their supervisors, and provide supervisors with an understanding of the process for involving the ergonomic team in assistance. 

Make sure that all training materials are differentiated to suit each role of the ergonomic process. Training should provide each person with the resources, tools, knowledge, processes, and methods required to meet all of their responsibilities. The responsibilities should be the basis of the learning objectives for all training content. 

Implement interactive exercises, hands-on experiences, and case studies in training. Practicing new skills will improve retention, comfort, and confidence in employees, which they will need in order to successfully implement an ergonomic culture within the organization. Provide resources to employees who can be references on an as-needed basis. 

Office Workplace Ergonomics

As mentioned previously, 95% of an office worker’s day is spent on a computer. Creating an ergonomic desk environment will drastically reduce any risks associated with office work. Consider using an adjustable computer stand to fit each individual. Improper computer position causes slouching and eye strain. By adjusting the height and distance of the computer screen, you will see a reduction in workers’ back and neck pain, headaches, and migraines. An adjustable desk that fits both standing and sitting positions is also a great way to reduce musculoskeletal pain. The body needs to change positions frequently. Alternating standing and sitting positions also reduce the chances of repetitive motion in one position, which is one of the biggest factors causing MSDs. Train all employees on proper posture, hand positions, stretching, and exercises to improve their musculoskeletal wellness and reduce the risks of injuries. Ensure that all employees understand the importance of these efforts. Some other solutions may include ergonomic keyboards and mouse pads, which are likely to reduce the strain on wrists. Ergonomic chairs can also help reduce neck and back strain.

Why is ergonomics important to computer users?

There are many reasons why ergonomics is important to computer users. One reason is that ergonomically designed products can help reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). RSIs are a type of injury that can be caused by repetitive motions, such as typing or using a mouse. Ergonomic products can help reduce the risk of RSIs by making it easier for people to maintain good posture and alignment while they are using a computer. Another reason why ergonomics is important to computer users is that ergonomic products can help increase productivity. When people are comfortable and able to work in a way that suits their individual needs, they tend to be more productive. Ergonomic products can help people achieve a comfortable and productive work environment by providing them with the tools they need to do their job efficiently. In addition to helping reduce the risk of RSIs and increasing productivity, ergonomics can also help to improve overall health and well-being. When people use ergonomic products, they are less likely to experience musculoskeletal problems, such as back pain or neck pain. Ergonomic products can also help to improve circulation and reduce stress levels.

Overall, ergonomics is important to computer users for a variety of reasons. Ergonomic products can help reduce the risk of injuries, increase productivity, and improve overall health and well-being. When choosing ergonomic products, it is important to select items that fit the individual user’s needs. Ergonomic products are available for a variety of budgets and can be found at most office supply stores.