How to Avoid Common Ergonomic Risks in the Workplace
Part 1: May the Force be with you
The modern workplace is riddled with common ergonomic hazards and risks. Our job as safety advocates is to work together to find systems and solutions that keep all employees and workplaces as safe as possible. For that reason, we want to welcome you to our three-part series focused on ergonomic risk factors in the workplace.
First, we will begin with force. To create a memorable connection to this initial topic, we like to think of Star Wars, where the force is an energy field created by all living things. When we refer to force in the workplace, we are discussing the exertion of power leading to muscular contraction. Continuing with our Star Wars analogy, you could think of the force as your body’s relationship with the workplace. Many workplaces involve the use of manual material handlers; that is, employees who regularly push, pull, lift, lower, or carry throughout the course of their workday. These work tasks involve an external load, that if not acted upon ergonomically, can lead to injury. An employee’s risk of injury is proportional to the relationship between task demand and tissue capacity. When the demands of the task exceed the capacity of the tissue, employees are at an increased risk of injury.
How does this happen?
The greater the force on the body, the more muscular effort required, leading to increased stress on the joints, followed by greater compression within the spine. The strenuous effects of a large external load, burdening the body, continues to compound with the internal forces of the active and passive tissues of the body
What are the consequences?
Now that we know how our bodies experience force, it is important to understand what that means and how it affects our everyday lives. Too much force on the body simply means our bodies experience greater fatigue. Although fatigue sounds like a benign side effect of force. Whole body fatigue can cause:
Whole body fatigue can cause:
- Decreased productivity
- Decreased employee morale
- Pronation of the feet and anterior pelvic tilt, leading to increased low back strain
- Increased error rate
- Increased absenteeism & employee turnover
Beyond these outcomes and symptoms of fatigue, too much force on the body, beyond muscle tolerance can lead to acute injuries, such as muscle strains. Repeated application of force over time can cause chronic injuries, which once again can lead to employee burnout and absenteeism.
How can we prevent force related injuries from occurring?
We like to think that the force should be with you (and we think Obi Wan would agree). Much like a Jedi Master, managers need to educate employees on safe lifting techniques. It is important to remind employees to look up before lifting, this activates the core, protecting the low back from strain. Other ways to engage your workforce are:
- Introducing two-person manual material handling
- Introducing lift/tilt tables, pallet jacks, hydraulic lift/lower devices, or tow motors to eliminate the need for unassisted manual material handling
One of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce unnecessary force is to provide every employee with MEGAComfort Personal Anti-Fatigue Mat Insoles. These revolutionary patented insoles, utilize dual layer memory foam to provide 100% contact with the body, allowing for continuous shock absorption. Shock absorption while performing manual material handling protects the employee from injury as the insoles distribute the force along the underside of the feet, while simultaneously preventing that force from travelling up the legs. They are one of the greatest ergonomic solutions for any workplace because they allow for 360-degree coverage, with personalized comfort, and support with every step.
Now that we’ve taught you how to wield the force (or utilize force in the workplace). Make sure you tune in for our part 2 in our series, helping you and your team avoid common ergonomic hazards in the workplace.