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Ergonomics in the Workplace

8 December 2023

Ergonomics is the study of working interactions between humans and machines/workstations and the factors that affect those interactions. Stemming from the Greek words ‘ergo’ & ‘nomus’ (workflow) it is in simple terms ‘fitting’ the job to the person as opposed to fitting the person to the job.


Origins of the Ergonomics

Ergonomic practitioners draw upon a number of different disciplines. Some of these are ‘biomechanics’ (the study of human movement and the associated laws) and ‘anthropometry’ (the study of human measurements). These disciplines assist ergonomic practitioners in identifying ergonomic risk factors.


Importance of Ergonomics in the Workplace

Failure to apply the principles of ergonomics within the workplace i.e., a busy office environment or warehouse can result in chronic or acute musculoskeletal injuries. If left unchecked can result in functional limitations. Employees working in such environments are also susceptible to RSI ‘repetitive strain injuries’ and WRULD ‘work related upper limb disorders’.

When designing workstations ergonomic considerations are of significant importance. An ergonomic risk assessment can help to identify issues with existing workstations. However prior to conducting a risk assessment a task analysis should be conducted. A task analysis is conducted in order to get an appreciation of an employee’s daily routine. A task analysis will highlight current or potential issues for the employee, time spent at the work station, breaks, and shift work. All these should all be taken into consideration. In addition, biomechanics and anthropometrics will also play a part at this point.


Ergonomic Tools

Ergonomic practitioners can utilize a number of tools in order to assist them in rating the risks accordingly:

  • Rapid employee body assessment (REBA) tool.
  • Rapid upper limb assessment (RULA) tool.
  • Assessment of repetitive tasks (ART) tool.

In addition, eLearn  Safety offers a full online VDU/DSE course. This course is fully online and can be taken 24/7. On completion of this VDU training course, participants will be provided with the information necessary to ensure current legislation is complied, risk assessments are carried out and all employees are competent to adjust their work stations to provide a safe place to work in.

Furthermore, a task analysis will help to identify if an employer is compliant with current legislation under the SHWW Act 2005. An office employees’ display screen is in essence a visual display unit. Therefore an employer must adhere to the guidance document within the general application regulations pertaining to VDU’s and display screen equipment.


Ergonomics in the Workplace Recommendations

Where office workers should be afforded the option to conduct his/her work both in the seated and standing position, employers must ensure chairs and VDU’s have the ability to be adjusted to suit all employees and consider frequent breaks and job rotation where practicable. Employers should also promote good working practices. For example, encouraging staff to make recommendations based on their working environments. If working in a warehouse or on a manufacturing line, workers should use appropriate equipment. A proper equipment will aid them in their jobs. Some of the examples are foot stools, foot rests, anti-glare eye protection, etc.

Employers should always be cognizant of the fact that ‘one shoe does not fit all’ when it comes to ergonomic assessments. For example a tall employee may feel cramped in a small area whereas a short employee may be uncomfortable if constantly reaching for items or if their feet are not supported when sitting.

Thus, structuring the working environment in order to suit the user is a step away from Taylors’ method of ‘scientific management’. Such a method, regardless of body shape and size or indeed the work being undertaken, was standardized across the board and the worker had to adapt him/herself to the factory conditions or face the prospect of dismissal and future injuries as a result.


Ergonomics Assessments

Ergonomic assessments are not difficult to undertake, and when carried out effectively can help to reduce the risk of ergonomic injuries and pain. In turn, this will help to motivate employees, allowing them to be more productive and happier in the working environment. Employers should always be aware of their responsibilities to their employees under the SHAWW Act and take the necessary steps to create risk free working environments where possible. Employees must also be aware of their rights and support any safety initiatives the employer wishes to implement, as the saying goes, ‘the rising tide floats every boat’.


Online Health and Safety Training

Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.

Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.

This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.

Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.

To find out more, please check our Courses page.

Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email