What is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is a term widely used in clinical settings and used for comfortability designed for a person. Ergonomics means that an object is designed specifically for comfort in any type of working environment so the task or job at hand can be completed with efficiency. There are many different objects that are ergonomically friendly for example; keyboards, mice, pens, desks, chairs, knives etc. Each serves their own purpose to get a job done. Not only are objects in a workplace specifically designed to minimise risk and harm but the actual workplace itself can be modified so that all employees stay safe and are not at risk for muscular skeletal disorders. With the assistance of ergonomic objects, it is also imperative that you have the correct posture while in the workplace even if while sitting.
Ergonomically Friendly Workplace
How can you make your workplace ergonomically friendly? Practicing good posture is very important in a workplace especially if you are in a position for prolonged periods of time for example sitting for 8hrs at a desk. If you find yourself sitting for a very long time you should get up and begin stretching your back and legs. It is important to take rest breaks throughout the day where you are stretching because you want to prevent your muscles and tendons from becoming strained or tense. Some stretches that can be easily completed without taking too much of your time are Planks, Bird Dogs, Glute Bridges, Quad Stretches, Hamstring/Calf Stretches and Ankle rolls.
Purchasing a new chair can really assist with posture control as most ergonomic chairs are equipped with adjustable head rests, arm rests, heights, lumbar support, seat width & depth, and swivels. Proper seated posture while working is important, keep these points in mind; keep an arms length away from the computer screen, sit up straight with your spine neutral and your shoulders relaxed, make sure your arms are parallel from the floor and finally sit with your feet planted on the ground. There are many other office items that can be purchased that assist with workplace comfortability such as desks, mousepads, mice, pens, computers and leg rests.
Not lifting objects properly? If you are not in the correct posture while lifting objects or heavy objects it will eventually result in Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD’s). These types of injuries are the result of a constant repetitive action with no rest and improper posture causing even further strain on the body. MSD’s normally affect joint, tendons and muscles. Preventing MSD’s involves being physically fit outside of the workplace, taking regular breaks especially during repetitious activities and most importantly proper posture. The most common repetitive strain injuries in the workplace are to the rotator cuff, lower back, arms & hands as well as other strains or sprains in other location of the body. What is the correct posture to lift and lower objects? Bending forward and simply picking up the heavy object followed by a rotation of the trunk can cause an injury. Before lifting any object Plan ahead; know what you are lifting and lowering, find out the weight of the object and check for any hazards in or around the lifting and lowering area of the object. Check the path that you will be walking in by removing and clearing any tripping hazards or wet surfaces. If there is the proper ergonomic equipment in the workplace such as, forklifts, carts, dollies, or hand hoisting machines that will assist you in lifting or lowering a heavy object use them however make sure you are trained to use machines properly. Finally wear the proper protective equipment if needed. According to NIOSH the height at which it is dangerous to lift objects is >135cm for Females and >145cm for Males.
Step by Step Lifting Techniques
Now that you have scanned the area and are going to begin lifting follow these steps;
- Get close to the objects.
- Use a wide stance or place a foot forward in a lunge position for balance.
- Keep the back straight, and the neck in a neutral position, activate your glutes and use your legs and hips to lower your body almost like you are squatting.
- Move the object close to you.
- Firmly grasp the object.
- Prepare the lift by tightening your core, looking forward and make sure your body is straight.
- Control the object by holding the load close to the body and lift with your legs and breathe out as the object is being lifted.
Role of Physiotherapy in Ergonomic assessment
An assessment by a registered physiotherapist includes a thorough postural examination. Your physiotherapist will be able to identify your unique postural compensations and can help guide you on the road to improved body positional awareness. They can help you in providing proper exercise programme of stretching and strengthening based on the muscle groups involved in postural dysfunction.