ERGONOMICS - THE TERM
Ergonomics is an important term that once again is receiving a great deal of
attention from safety professionals. Federal OSHA is again in the process of developing standards that would
require every company to have an ergonomics program. What is ergonomics and how could it affect
Ergonomics is the scientific study of
human work. It considers the physical and mental capabilities and limits of people as they interact with tools,
equipment, work methods, tasks, and the environment. The primary goal of an ergonomics program is to reduce
work-related injuries and illnesses by adapting the work to fit the person, instead of forcing the person to
adapt to the work. The idea of ergonomics is to evaluate and control work conditions known to cause injuries and
illnesses because of the excessive demands placed on people. In other words, "Let's find ways to work smarter
rather than harder!"
It appears that the biggest challenge will
be choosing the best ergonomic strategy to use for each particular situation. There are endless possibilities. A
careful analysis of the situation should help in choosing the most effective strategy. As an example, let's look
at just a few possible strategies to use in situations that currently involve manual carrying
Eliminate the need to carry. This may not be
feasible, but it should be the first strategy to consider.
Rearrange the layout of the task to eliminate
unnecessary carrying. This could involve relocation of receiving, storage, production, or shipping
Reduce the weight of the object being carried or
increase the weight of the object so it is too heavy and has to be handled by mechanical
Use mechanical handling aids such as forklifts,
hand trucks, cranes, and four wheel dollies.
Assign the task of carrying bulky or awkwardly
shaped objects to two or more people.
Eliminate tripping hazards with good housekeeping
You are encouraged to get involved and make suggestions to help in
preventing injuries and illnesses by improving "ergonomic" safety. Encourage employees to take part as they
play a critical role in providing input process because they are the ones doing the work and are familiar with
equipment, tools, and current work methods. An ergonomics program will only be successful if everyone works
together as a team to come up with solutions. By including the employees in the development process they take
ownership and are more likely to follow the program.
OSHA believes a large part of the initial
ergonomics program at most companies will involve searching for ways to correct problems that have already
caused injuries and illnesses. OSHA hopes the program will eventually focus on finding pro-active solutions to
situations that could lead to injury if ergonomic issues are not addressed ahead of time.