Workplace safety: Don’t get bent out of shape!

What most people do not realise is that one of the most negligible hazards in the workplace is poor ergonomics.

Ergo… what??

Basically, it occurs when the type of work or working condition puts a strain on your body and physical health.  This is one of the hardest hazards to spot as the negative effects take time to manifest.

Many muscle strains result from performing the same motion over and over again. These become repetitive stress injuries. You don’t even realise it, but a lot of the things we do on a daily basis, be it at work or at home, pose repetitive stress on our bodies. Example, typing and using a computer mouse can result in carpal tunnel syndrome. Short-term exposure may result in sore muscles, but long- term exposure can result in serious long-term illnesses!

So what can be done to improve this?

First off, it is the company’s duty to adopt an ergonomic approach to the workplace.

A desk setup that contributes to poor posture will cause long-term harm to the employee such as neck and back strain. Eventually, this can lead to problems with muscles, discs, and joints. Each desk station should have the monitor set at eye-length level, aligned with the keyboard. Chairs should be height adjustible and its arc should support a straight position for the back.

Fatigue is another of the most common causes of workplace injuries. Depending on the nature of the work consider allowing frequent short breaks, especially for outdoor workers. Short breaks are also good in duties requiring repetitive, monotous functions, especially when sitting is required.

Poorly designed or maintained tools and equipment may require workers to perform awkward movements or to contort their body in order to perform a task. Repeated day after day, this causes excessive fatigue and may result in spine and joints injury. Regular maintenance and repairs are required to avoid injury.

Regular phone use can be damaging to the ear, as well as the neck especially when people cradle the phone in order to take notes. Use an earpiece (especially for customer centre) instead or the speaker if you have your own office.

Regular use of laptop, mobile devices and tablets can cause various injuries from eye strain to neck strain. These devices worsen the problem as people continue to use them throughout the evening as they take work home. Take a break from the devices to carry out other tasks, especially when at home. Ensure that lighting in the room is adequate to prevent eye strain.

These examples highlight that many issues associated with poor ergonomics develop over time. When you consider the fact that we spend upwards of one-third our lives at work, proper ergonomics in the workplace is critical to long-term well-being and injury prevention.

It is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that employees are working in a conducive environment. Remember that the company benefits in the long run in terms of reduced sick leave and staff turn over. Regular occupational safety checks are a must in every workplace.

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