How to Avoid Common Ergonomic Risks in the Workplace

Part 2: Improving Posture

Have you ever looked in the mirror and been surprised by the decline of your posture over time? We can take a collective sigh, admitting we’ve all been there.  Posture effects everyone in different ways. Yet, in the workplace it takes on new meaning with a profound impact. When we are discussing posture as an ergonomic risk factor, what we are really referring to is the presence of awkward postures in the workplace. To understand and recognize awkward postures, we must first explore the neutral posture.

The neutral posture is assumed when the employee stands upright, with the arms relaxed at their sides, the elbows bent to 90 degrees, and the palms facing inwards, as if to shake hands. When in this neutral posture the body is at its strongest and most stable point, allowing the muscles to work most efficiently.

With an understanding of the neutral posture, we can define awkward posture as any positions that cause significant deviation from the neutral posture. Awkward postures are just as bad as an awkward moment, although less embarrassing, they are worse. An awkward posture is an ergonomic risk because failure to optimize the body will cause fatigue, unnecessary internal forces, as well as increase the possibility of impingements within the joints.

How does this happen?

Awkward postures in the workplace stem from our interaction with our personal workspace. It is important to address any inefficient workstation designs. Poor workstation design or layout can lead employees to overreach, or overextend themselves, trying to grasp items that may be heavy or cause balance issues. If an employee’s workstation is set up poorly, they may engage in awkward postures by bending, lifting, or lowering themselves or items that can lead to severe injury. Engaging in awkward postures sounds benign, but it can lead to fatigue and injury.

What are the consequences?

An awkward moment might cause embarrassment, which will pass momentarily. On the other hand, an awkward posture can leave a sting that sticks around for a lifetime. Awkward postures can lead to:

  • Increased muscular demand causing higher levels of internal forces than what would be seen in a neutral posture
  • Decreased joint stability
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Increased fall risk

How can we prevent posture related injuries from occurring?

There are three easy and effective ways to reduce the likelihood of awkward posture:

  1. Improve workstation design
    • Utilize horizontal and vertical work zones, placing the most frequently used items in the primary zones.
    • Establishing primary, secondary, and tertiary zones will minimize the need to bend or reach
  2. Implement ergonomic controls
    • Easy items, such as a step stool can serve as a step up for shorter employees, or a seat to prevent bending in taller employees. Other items such as, pallet jacks can be used to optimize the working height as a pallet is unloaded.
  3. Implement an insole program
    • One of the easiest, fastest, and effective ways to prevent awkward postures is to provide every employee with MEGAComfort Personal Anti-Fatigue Mat Insoles. They provide support to the arches of the feet, preventing fatigue related awkward postures
      • The dual-layer memory foam insoles prevent fatigue related pronation from occurring, this allows the spine to maintain the neutral curvature, relieving awkward postures.

Every workplace has unique challenges. However, awkward postures do not need to be one of them. Hopefully, these strategies can alleviate pain and fatigue for your team. Stay tuned for part 3 of our series, helping you to avoid common ergonomic hazards in the workplace.