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Quick Lessons in Ergonomics

Some simple tips can make ergonomics work to reduce many soft tissue injuries.  The definition of ergonomics provided by OSHA is: “Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population.”  It is about body mechanics and is a lot like machine work.
If you design a machine that is strong enough to lift something but has part of the machine that can be damaged when maximum lifted is attempted, that is like the human body.  When a machine that uses hydraulics to lift blows a hose, that’s like a person getting a herniated disk.  When a machine bearing wears out prematurely because it is used repeatedly with a maximum working load, that can be like a person who wears out a knee or elbow joint.
Tasks that require repetitive motion can aggravate parts of the human body.  Repeating the process of picking up a box and turning around to set it down by twisting your mid section instead of moving your feet can cause a serious injury.  Reaching higher than your shoulders for an item can over extend body parts that can be stretched and damaged leading to extreme pain.  Internal body parts can take more time to repair than external.  It is my understanding that they can also be damaged more easily after they part has healed so care must be taken.  Many of the injuries to the human body can be prevented using simple procedures and machines.
It is important to warm-up before doing any lifting by slowly stretching your muscles and tendons.  Picking up things off the floor by bending your knees and keeping the load close can help to reduce back injury.  Making sure that you set items on a shelf that doesn’t cause anyone or yourself to have to stretch to reach them can help also.  Ergonomics is about using body mechanics to make sure that the body is not over used, stretched and damaged.    In addition it is about using machines to lift, twist, turn, cut, crimp, etc. so you are not required to exert enough strength to stress body parts.
Have a discussion this week with your workgroup and talk about the tasks that could lead to a soft tissue injury.  Decide what can be done to reduce the risk of injury and commit to following through with the what you learned.  Remember to prevent injury we must first recognize the hazard, evaluate the hazard and apply the necessary controls to reduce the risk.


by Carl Potter, CSP


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