Ergonomic risk factors are often associated with workplace environments. Poor equipment and posture can lead to tension throughout the body simply because of a lack of awareness. Richmond, Virginia’s Preston Leep completed his degree in exercise science. He is a certified ergonomics assessment specialist and is motivated to provide solutions to help prevent injuries.
Changing Ergonomics In The Workplace
Ergonomics is essentially about designing spaces that work for individuals. Since the workplace is where most of us spend the majority of our day, its function is extremely important. Dysfunctional designs in how a workplace is structured can lead to physical issues such as carpal tunnel syndrome and neck or back strain.
The workplace has altered itself throughout the course of history. Farm work and factories required a different set of physical strengths. Standing or working with minuscule parts places stress on the hamstrings and the neck, while farming may cause soreness throughout the muscles.
As computers have become increasingly critical to the workplace, their design has left some people with unnecessary tension. Typing for long stretches of time and squinting and straining can produce issues with the neck, joints, and muscles.
Certain exercises and stretches can help keep the body limber throughout the workday. If these exercises are applied regularly, they can prevent poor posture and prolonged cramping. This can relieve stress more efficiently than waiting until poor posture causes pain.
Common Ergonomic Problems
According to the United States Department of Labor, workplace facilities should be reviewed on a routine basis. Identifying existing issues can help benefit employees. Preston Leep has found the workplace environment to be a common cause of long-lasting discomfort.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a disorder that can weaken both the hand and wrist. Commonly caused by typing for long periods without stretching, this syndrome develops from the nerve. Carpal tunnel syndrome can cause mild or severe pain. Those that are affected by this type of disorder can experience a dramatic difference in their lifestyle.
Lower Back Injuries
Lower back injuries are common in many workplaces. Desk jobs, as well as physical labor intensive jobs, can cause back pain. By sitting in an office chair for several hours, the back can become strained and sore. Back stiffness can make it increasingly difficult to stretch and perform other forms of exercise. Severe back pain can be debilitating.
Tennis elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, can also be caused by workplace posture. This occurs when the outer area of the elbow becomes chronically sore. Tennis elbow can affect up to 3% of the population but often impacts adults between the ages of 30 and 50. Treating tennis elbow can be much more expensive than preventative measures and may need medical attention.
Tendinitis is an inflammation of the tendon. When the cord that links both the bones and muscles together is irritated, this can cause mild to severe pain. Depending on the intensity of this condition, individuals may take weeks or months to recover. Tendinitis primarily happens when the tendons lose elasticity. This can be from age or over-extension.
What Are The Ergonomic Risk Factors In The Workplace?
Most postural health issues that occur in the workplace affect several key areas. The back, shoulders, knees, and arms are particularly vulnerable to this kind of stress.
1. Static Posture
Jobs that require standing or sitting can cause stiffness in the muscles. This can happen in a variety of workplace settings. Sitting at a desk for several hours can create problematic static posture. Regardless of the type of work conducted, stationary positions decrease oxygen in the muscles.
2. Lifting Merchandise
Without the use of specialized mechanical equipment, lifting and pulling motions overextend the muscles. Pushing and gripping motions are also likely to cause the same kind of wear and tear as other forceful exertions. Stocking packages, retail work, and warehouse jobs are all examples of workplace exertion.
3. Repetitive Movements
Any type of movement that is done over and over again increases the likelihood of strain and discomfort. If this is done on a daily basis, the chance of injury is even higher. Repetitive motions happen in several workplace environments, including offices, medical rooms, and computer programming.
Contact stress happens when there is continuous rubbing between a body part and a hard or sharp surface. Fingers, hands, elbows, and thighs are particularly vulnerable to this type of issue. When the contact produces localized pressure, blood flow and nerve function are often reduced.
Vibrations in the workplace can be due to grinders, needle guns, impact wrenches, or chainsaws. Any type of device that produces this type of movement can also reduce blood flow. The repetitive vibrations created by certain machines can also injure the blood vessels.
How To Identify Poor Posture
Regardless of the pain, certain positions produce poor posture. Computer monitors that are faced below or above eye level can be problematic. Crossing ankles while sitting at a desk can cause hip misalignment. Even regular postures can cause discomfort.
Poor posture at work caused by healthy positioning is not unusual in the workplace. For instance, standing in one place is not harmful to an individual. Standing in one place for multiple hours, however, can cause muscular fatigue.
Workplace environments don’t usually cause immediate injury. It’s the gradual process of poor posture and movement over an extended period of time that generally produces negative results. To better understand why certain muscles are painful, attention to physical positioning at work can make a difference.