Actually, it’s a bit like wearing clothes; if your pants are too big, they feel baggy or they fall off – you may even trip over them. If your pants are too tight, they take longer to put on and your movement is often restricted.
The better your clothes fit, the more comfortable you feel and you actually move (or perform) better.
Having your work environment set up ergonomically, is like a good retail sales assistant who gives you an honest opinion when you are trying on new clothes. In the end they fit well, they go with most of things you already have and you look good.
No one work environment is perfect for every worker and no worker is a perfect fit for every work environment. Every worker is different from the next – there are different body types, shapes and sizes, not to mention personality and habits. Similarly, every workplace differs from the next.
This is why ergonomic assessments are so important. So what exactly is ergonomics?
Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance1.
As long as people continue to develop differently and work environments continue to have varying demands for different roles and are structured differently, then Ergonomic considerations will continue to be a necessary component of every job role in every workplace.
When should I do an ergonomic setup?
The best time to assess or set up a work environment is when workers move into a new workplace, when they move to another location within a workplace or when their job role changes. Initial ergonomic set ups ensure the “right fit” from the outset, and subsequent ergonomic reviews provide opportunities for minor adjustments to be made and for further education to be given.
Where do I start?
There are a number of things that need to be considered before setting up a workplace ergonomically:
- The worker: body type, size and shape;
- The equipment they need to use – size and shape, alternatives;
- The nature of the job – what they need to do most of in a day;
- The workers habits – personal preferences; which changes are going to be sustainable?;
- Other factors such as wearing graduated lenses, medical conditions the worker may have and the amount of time the worker divides between two or more workplaces in a day/week.
What are the benefits of doing an ergonomic setup?
It’s just like having clothes that fit well, you feel more comfortable and you move (or perform) better. In a workplace that is set up well, workers are happier, they perform better and they have fewer injuries. A good ergonomic set up will also include training on how tasks are performed and how and when to take breaks.
Practically, conducting an ergonomic setup in your workplace will:
- Encourage workers to adopt correct postures and safe body mechanics;
- Significantly decreasing injury risk and the incidence of injuries;
- Maximise a workers comfort at work;
- Increasing workplace productivity and;
- Educate workers on the benefits of postural breaks and stretching to manage or prevent discomfort.
Ergonomic workplace assessments are commonly conducted for workers who work in the office environment, for workers who work within the cockpit of a heavy vehicle or machine and for workers operating power tools.
For workers who work in the office environment an ergonomic set up considers:
- Workstation chair set up, adjustments and sitting posture;
- Desk design, size and height;
- Computer monitor position, dual monitor set up;
- Laptop computer set up;
- Repetitive computer tasks – mousing, data entry, clicking;
- Work method and working postures;
- Rest breaks and stretch breaks;
- Musculoskeletal discomfort;
- The workers habits – personal preferences; what is sustainable;
- Other elements relevant to the worker or the work environment.
Workers who work within the cockpit of a heavy vehicles or machines are often involved with mining or construction. Seat assessments and the right cockpit set up ensure that workers can concentrate in the job at hand for longer in an often dangerous environment.
For workers using power tools, the ergonomic assessment and set up of those power tools, ensures they are used correctly by the workers who operate them. It also reduces the risk of repetitive stress and other soft tissue injuries associated with the use of power tools and even increases the life of the power tool.
- International Ergonomics Association (2015). What Is Ergonomics? http://www.iea.cc/whats/index.html