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Important Elements for Your Ergonomic Program

Neck Pain Lady

By now most people have heard about the importance of ergonomics. While back injuries, sprains and strains can result from a single acute incident, the chance of a work-related illness or injury occurring is greatly increased by repetitive force. A well-designed ergonomic program will significantly reduce work-related injuries and illnesses.

Most work puts a certain amount of pressure on body parts, and incorrect posture can strain muscles, tendons and ligaments around the joint. Repetition can lead to fatigue, and eventually, pain and discomfort. This can occur even if the level of force is low and the work postures aren’t overly awkward. And completing even basic tasks for a long period of time can aggravate the body.

Injuries can also result from even a single incident of lifting too much weight or severely straining muscles. And, repetitive strain can weaken muscles and build complacency that can increase the risk of an acute injury when something changes.

Human factors play a huge role in the prevalence of ergonomic-related injuries. Many workers are most susceptible to factors like ignoring fatigue when trying to “stick it out” to get the job done or rushing that causes added force on the body. Complacency is also a significant contributor to ergonomic-related injuries. Even if you’ve provided ergonomics instruction and engineering solutions to employees, over time they can forget their training and can become comfortable with an awkward position, chair or workstation.

There are some easy ways to help reduce the overall psychical strain on employees, including:

  • Take a ten-minute stretch break from the task in progress every few hour.
  • Educate workers on using good posture whether standing or sitting.
  • Teach proper lifting techniques.
  • Provide material handling equipment (dollies, carts, forklifts, etc.) that lessens the load workers have to carry themselves.
  • Provide time for frequent stretches and regular exercise.

Human factors training can improve an ergonomics program by giving employees a better awareness of how injuries occur and to recognize how their state of mind can increase risk. It can also provide motivation to work on habits and teach employees how to self-trigger on taking the necessary steps to prevent injury.

Once people have this additional understanding and set of skills there are a few other elements that will improve ergonomics:

  • Help employees recognize how their posture can be compromised by their state of mind.
  • Suggest that everyone observe each other and communicate about potential visible ergonomic issues or human factors that might cause an error in judgement.
  • Teach people to trigger on the first signs of discomfort and analyze whether it could be an ergonomic issue and make changes accordingly.
  • Teach people to self-trigger on their state before lifting/moving objects so they will slow down, calm down, ask for help and choose to use proper lifting techniques.
  • Work on building good ergonomic habits that will compensate for complacency.

If you want more details about how human factors training can benefit your ergonomic program then register for one of our free on-demand webinars—and learn about the other benefits of human factors training too.

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Using a Human Factors Framework for Safety and Operational Excellence

It can be hard to see the connection between safety, productivity, human factors and organizational systems. This webinar will demonstrate how a human factors framework can impact all areas of an organization, linking individual worker safety and organizational systems and provide an outline that allows leadership to manage safety-focused change.

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