What is ergonomics?
by Tech. Sgt. Brenda Brock
The term "ergonomics" is derived from two Greek words: "ergon", meaning work and "nomoi", meaning natural laws. Ergonomics is a discipline that involves arranging the environment to fit the person in it. When ergonomics is applied correctly in the work environment, visual and musculoskeletal discomfort and fatigue are reduced significantly.
In recent years, the Center for Disease Control's Office of Health and Safety has identified repetitive motion injuries as a factor in employee injuries. These injuries are caused by excessive and repeated physical stress on the musculoskeletal system causing musculoskeletal disorders. MSD's are defined as disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendon, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. Examples of MSDs include: carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff syndrome, De Quervain's syndrome, trigger finger, tarsal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, tendonitis, Raynaud's phenomenon, carpet layer's knee, herniated spinal disc and low back pain.
If you suspect you may be suffering from an MSD, contact your Primary Care Provider for evaluation. If you have any questions please feel free to contact Public Health/ Force Health Management office at 827-9886/9885.
Following ergonomic principles helps reduce stress and eliminate many potential injuries and disorders associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture and repeated tasks. This is accomplished by designing tasks, work spaces, controls, displays, tools, lighting and equipment to fit the employee's physical capabilities and limitations.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration has a comprehensive approach to ergonomics designed to quickly and effectively address MSDs in the workplace. The four segments of OSHA's strategy for reducing injuries and illnesses from MSDs in the workplace are:
Guidelines, OSHA will develop task-specific guidelines based on current incidence rates and available information about effective and feasible solutions.
Enforcement, OSHA will conduct inspections for ergonomic hazards and issue citations under the General Duty Clause and issue ergonomic hazards alert letters where appropriate.
Outreach and Assistance, OSHA will provide assistance to workplaces and help them proactively address ergonomic issues in the workplace. National Advisory Committee, OSHA will charter an advisory committee that will be authorized to identify gaps in research to the application of ergonomics and ergonomic principles in the workplace.
Department of Defense Instruction 6055.1, Safety and Occupational Health Program, provides guidelines for developing your work center's ergonomic program. The CDC and U.S.
Department of Labor also provide comprehensive information on assessing your workplace's ergonomic shortfalls and provide easy tips on how to correct some of these problems. (Information in this article courtesy of Center for Disease Control and U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration)