Most people associate sitting properly at their desks on good chairs when they hear the word ergonomics. While this is partially true, the modern interpretation of ergonomics is “designing the job to fit the worker, not forcing the worker to fit the job.” The word ergonomics originates from the Greek terms “ergon” which means work and “nomos” which means laws.
There are many professions involved in the field of ergonomics, including; ergonomists, psychologists, industrial engineers, computer science, biomechanics, safety engineering and a host of others According to the American Psychological Association, “the inter-disciplinary science of ergonomics explores human capabilities and limitations and uses this knowledge to improve the design of things that people use and the ways in which they work.
As the list of professionals listed above indicates, ergonomics relates to all physical and psychological aspects of a job.
- Physical stresses placed on joints, muscles, nerves, tendons, bones, discs and
- Environmental factors which can affect hearing, vision, and general comfort and well-being.
Examples of physical stressors include repetitive motions such as those caused by endless typing or the continual use of a manual screwdriver. Tasks involving vibrations (a jackhammer) or excessive and repetitive forces, such as lifting heavy boxes of books, again and again, are typical examples.
Working in an awkward position, or sitting in an uncomfortable or cramped position can also result in unwelcome physical stress.
Repetitive motions, vibration, excessive force, and awkward positions are frequently linked to ergonomic disorders; however, the majority of “Cumulative Trauma Disorders” or “Repetitive Strain Injuries” (RSIs), are caused by repetitive motions that would not result in undue stress or harm if only performed occasionally.
Among the more common conditions associated with work-related cumulative trauma disorders are;
- Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
- Lower back and neck pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- DeQuarvain’s Syndrome
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
These conditions will be dealt with individually in coming articles.
Environmental factors include such things as indoor air quality, excessive noise noxious odours, amongst others.
Environmental factors such as those listed above may result in headaches, congestion, fatigue and even rashes. The excessive noise around heavy machinery or equipment may lead to permanent hearing loss.
Improper lighting can cause eyestrain and headaches, especially in conjunction with frequent computer work.