Prioritizing Ergonomics Promotes Efficient Workplaces and Empowered Employees
As we continue to move through uncharted waters, it is important for businesses to keep employee safety top of mind.
- By Dr. Kevan Orvitz
- Sep 01, 2022
When it comes to workplace safety and employee wellbeing, few things are as important as ergonomics. By ensuring that your facility is designed, operated and assessed in a manner that takes into account the physical needs of your employees, you can help to prevent injuries while promoting a healthy work environment that inspires workers and promotes wellbeing. Ergonomics exceeds the physical aspects of the workplace, it's also about the way work is performed. By taking a closer look at the physical and mental aspects of a worker's job and worksite, you can create an environment that's not only safe, but also productive, comfortable, empowering and efficient.
Today, more than ever, employees are looking for greater connection, in both their personal and professional lives. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it became abundantly clear that employees appreciate the value their employers place on their safety. In the workplace, safety protocols fluctuated throughout the pandemic, but one sentiment has remained constant: Businesses can only accomplish their goals when they prioritize employee wellbeing and safety.
While some organizations have always been focused on employee wellbeing, the pandemic has forced others to re-evaluate their priorities. As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, it's important for businesses to keep employee safety top of mind. Here are a few ways you can do that:
- Review your workplace ergonomics and make sure they're up to date.
- Evaluate your facility's layout and design.
- Take a closer look at the way work is performed in your organization.
- Implement safety protocols that take into account the physical and mental needs of your employees.
- Provide employees with the ergonomic PPE they deserve.
Focusing on the Workplace
There are a few key things to keep in mind when designing an ergonomic workplace. First, it's important to consider the different types of work that will be performed in the space. For example, if you have a warehouse that needs to be able to accommodate forklifts, you'll need to make sure there's enough room for the equipment and workers to move around safely. It is also important to evaluate the height of shelving and other objects in the space, as this can impact the way employees reach and interact with them.
An accurate assessment of ergonomics in the workplace can only be accomplished when both the workspace and the employee's daily experience within that space is evaluated. When initially assessing effectiveness of ergonomics within a workspace, it's important to analyze the worker's posture. The posture an employee adopts while working can start a positive or negative physical chain reaction within their body. Poor or awkward postures can lead to painful injuries and lifelong medical concerns such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis. Employers should provide staff with PPE that will assist them maintain good posture when they are at work to avoid these problems. This might include ergonomic seats or adjustable workstations.
Maintaining a healthy posture entails more than simply standing up straight; it also includes avoiding awkward postures. Any position that puts strain on the musculoskeletal system is considered an awkward posture. When the body is in an awkward position, it is more likely to be harmed. Employers should provide workers with protective equipment that will assist them in maintaining good posture while they are working so that these injuries do not occur.
Clinically proven, anti-fatigue insoles are shown to decrease the impact of awkward foot postures, allowing employees to maintain proper lower extremity alignment while also reducing body stress.
Another key consideration is the way work is performed. For example, if you have a job that requires repetitive motions, it's important to consider ways to reduce the risk of injury. Repetition occurs when an employee repeats a task in a given period of time. Musculoskeletal problems, such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and musculoskeletal disorders, can be caused by tasks that are repeated frequently. Employers should provide employees with PPE that will assist them in reducing the amount of repetition in their job to prevent these disorders. This may include mechanization equipment, rotational schedules and ergonomically designed tools and equipment.
Reducing the effects of repetition in a job is possible by providing workers with PPE that allows them to accomplish the task with ease and comfort. Memory foam insoles that are clinically proven and ergonomically designed can assist people who suffer from repetitive strain injury. Anti-fatigue, 100 percent dual layer memory foam insoles help to improve blood circulation in the active and static muscles of the feet, legs, knees, hips and lower back. They also reduce discomfort and localized tiredness in these areas by increasing blood flow. These unique insoles assist in distributing body weight more evenly, reducing the risk of harm. Memory foam anti-fatigue insoles are an excellent option for safety managers looking to enhance employee health and safety, from the ground up.
The physical demands placed on workers can feel like a relentless barrage of daunting heavy tasks. Workers engaging in physical or manual labor are constantly combatting fatigue and injury. Each day, these workers are at risk of musculoskeletal problems due to the sheer force of their work. Force is the amount of pressure an employee applies to a task.
This might be due to the weight of the object they are lifting, or the degree of effort needed to complete a job. Musculoskeletal problems such as strains and sprains can develop from tasks that require a lot of force. Like most ergonomic risks, safety starts from the ground up. Employees who must lift, carry or move a lot of weight greatly appreciate the additional cushioning, shock absorption and support that dual layer 100 percent memory foam anti-fatigue insoles provide. These unique insoles not only help to keep workers healthy and safe but can also aid in the reduction of body tension and injuries.
Success Requires Balance
One ergonomic risk factor that places employees at risk to tremendous danger is a lack of balance. Balance is the distribution of an employee’s weight while they are working. Poor balance can lead to musculoskeletal injuries, such as sprains and strains. Many companies install anti-fatigue matting to combat the effects of continuous standing. Although well intentioned, this seemingly helpful solution is actually a dangerous hazard. These mats are difficult to clean, often peel at the corners and are ineffective in their ability to cover the entire workplace. Instead of creating comfort and balance, they are often the culprit of slips, trips and falls.
A better solution to achieving balance in the workplace is to provide employees with anti-fatigue, 100 percent dual layer memory foam insoles. These unique insoles are designed to evenly distribute an employee's weight, providing them with the support and comfort they need to stay safe and productive throughout their workday. Offering employees clinically proven and ergonomically designed memory foam anti-fatigue insoles helps improve balance and distribution of body weight. This in turn can help reduce foot, knee and lower back pain—some of the most common injuries seen in today's workforce.
Creating an Engaged Workforce
Successful businesses know that by making physical changes to the workplace, they can enhance employee mental health and well-being. The objective of every health and safety professional or manager should be to enhance employee wellness through ergonomics. Comfort, productivity and safety can all be increased by making simple changes to the workstation.
As a safety professional, it's no longer about simply providing the proper safety gear anymore. Safety professionals have to go beyond basic practices in order to keep employees healthy, safe, motivated, productive and engaged. Instead, employers need to provide them with ergonomic solutions to common daily workplace hazards that demonstrate appreciation and understanding of their daily physical sacrifices.
This article originally appeared in the September 1, 2022 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.