December 20, 2016

HSE Corner: Ergonomics



Standing, sitting, and moving incorrectly, all increase your risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)—injuries often associated with repetitive strain or damage to muscles, tendons, nerves and joints. Poor posture strains muscles and tendons and stresses joints. Work duties that involve poor posture and repetitive movements, such as typing, can cause muscle fatigue and injuries to other soft tissue. For example, people working at desks for extended periods often adopt postures that lead to discomfort and injury over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.

With a little adjustment, however, you can correct most posture problems. The key is to stay in or near what is called “neutral position” and keep work materials within easy reach.

Ergonomic Design in your Workplace

Ergonomics is the process of designing workplaces, equipment and systems so that they are suited to the user. This approach can be applied to numerous aspects of a workplace such as chairs, tables, keyboards, computer screens and telephones.

Incorporate the principles of ergonomic design into your workplace. This may include, for example, purchasing office chairs that provide a headrest, adjustable height and adequate lumbar support.

It is really important to take a ‘proactive’ rather than a ‘reactive’ approach to these types of hazards. This means that rather than responding to an incident when it occurs, you should look for and address areas in your workplace that are in need of improvement.
You can also do small things in the workplace to reduce poor ergonomics such as:

  • Position desks and chairs so that the elbow is level with or slightly higher than the keyboard.
  • Place computer screens at an appropriate distance from the worker (between 350mm to 750mm) and at an appropriate height (the top of the screen should be just below eye level).

Remember, there are also lots of exercises your workers can do at their workstations to help reduce posture and movement hazards.
Train your workers in methods like this and don’t forget to train workers who work from home in these practices as well. Consult them about their needs, and ensure that any equipment you provide is appropriate and they are aware of potential hazards related to sedentary work, poor posture and repetitive movements; how to identify the hazards, and how to avoid them.

This article is written by Paul Sumner, DMCC Senior HSE Manager; Email:

Topics: Health, Safety & Environment (HSE)

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