The practice of safety in workplace has seen incredible advances as time has gone, due to advancement in technology, although there is still considerable amount of challenges that comes in form of injuries and illnesses (Hopwood and Thompson, 2006). This is where ergonomics comes to play a role in making the workplace safe for activities that would be carried out by the employee. Ergonomics draws on many disciplines in its study of humans and their environments, including anthropometry, biomechanics, mechanical engineering, industrial engineering, industrial design, kinesiology, physiology and psychology (Wikipedia, 2010).
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Unsafe, unhealthy, uncomfortable or inefficient situations at work or in everyday life are avoided by taking account of the physical and physiological capabilities and limitations of humans (Dul and Weerdmeester, 1993). Human health and safety is at optimum range when the workplace environmental parameters are suitable for the employee (Story, 2010). Each year, poorly designed products and workplaces account for thousands of injuries and skyrocketing costs. That is why ergonomics the human factor in product and workplace design is fast becoming a major concern of manufacturers (Gross, 1995).
This report is about how is about applying and proper training on the use of ergonomics to everyday workplace can prevent life threatening illnesses, discomfort, accidents, and how employers can save money by reducing costs related to issues like workers’ compensation, absenteeism and turn over, as it makes operations more efficient by creating work place designs with fewer errors and improve on workplace user friendliness (MacLeod, 1995), with the goal of reducing musculoskeletal discomfort, increase work productivity, efficiency and comfort, as an employee who is more comfortable is more productive (Meriano and Latella, 2008).
1.1 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The aim of this report is to know what ergonomics is all about and how it can be incorporated into the health and safety sector.
The objectives of this report are;
Reduce risks factors associated with poorly designed work stations and,
To design a workplace that is suitable for the human body rather than the human body adapting to workplace.
To be able to identify, measure, control and monitor the occupational health hazards/agents in the workplace which may cause ill-health to employees.
2.0 LITERATURE REVIEW
2.1 WHAT IS ERGONOMICS?
Ergonomics is the science of fitting workplace conditions and job demands to the capabilities of the working population, it tends to look into work related problems that poses a risk of musculoskeletal disorders and ways of alleviating them (Cohen et al, 1997). It is also the applied science that is devoted to provide comfort, efficiency and safety into the design of items in the work place (Shelly and Vermaat, 2010), ergonomic intervention can benefit both employer and employee (Meriano and Latella, 2008).
The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics as follows:
Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.
A large number of factors play a role in ergonomics; these include body posture and movement, environmental factors, information and operation as well as work organization. Ergonomics differs from other fields by its interdisciplinary approach and applied nature (Dul and Weerdmeester, 1993).
The benefits of ergonomics include job satisfaction and enhanced worker motivation, added problem-solving capabilities, and greater acceptance of change. Involving staffs can help to identify job hazards, suggest ways to control these hazards and working with management in deciding how to put this control in place.
2.2 WHO IS AN ERGONOMIST?
An Ergonomist is one who has adequate knowledge of the relation between humans’ health and humans’ performance (Schlick, 2009) taking into consideration the job, equipment used and information used (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ergonomics). According to Dul and Weerdmeester, 1993, the professional ergonomists can work for the authorities (legislation), training institutions (universities and colleges), research establishments, the service industry (consultancy) and production sector (occupational health services, personnel departments, design departments, research departments, etc.), they also wrote that the ergonomist highlights the areas where ergonomic knowledge is essential, provides ergonomic guidelines and advises designers, purchasers, management and employees, on which are more acceptable systems.
2.3 HISTORY OF ERGONOMICS:
Science of Ergonomics dates back to 1717, when Bernadino Ramazzini, father of occupational medicine, speculated on factors within the work environment that contributed to his patients’ illnesses, he described violent and irregular motions, bent posture and tonic strain on the muscle as factors that contributed to musculoskeletal pains in his patients (Meriano and Latella, 2008).
However, in the United Kingdom, ergonomics started in 1917 in World War I when the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Medical Research Council were asked to investigate industrial conditions, particularly of munitions workers, this led to the establishment of Industrial Fatigue Research Board who performed research on above topic in 1929 because of the expanded scope of work (hours of work, training, accidents, lighting and ventilation, and design of the machinery. In 1949, the Ergonomics Research Society was established at a meeting held by a small group of research workers at the Admiralty; this made the society the earliest to be formed in the world (Meister, 1999).
2.4 LEGAL CONTROL OF ERGONOMICS:
The law serves as a vital function in complex social setting as it provides standards or guidelines that define unacceptable and acceptable human behaviour. A breach in this law can be considered violation of the law and the transgressor could face civil or criminal penalties the legal system of every governmental jurisdiction and at every level of organised society must constantly adapt to changing demands, so there has and will be a continuing effusion of controlling laws. It is for this reason that the legal system is based on concepts of human faults. Liability prevention or mitigation is the avoidance of fault by investigation, analysis, evaluation, risk assessment, corrective action, and preventive remedies. The probability of a scientist or engineer having contact with law is high, it is wise to become familiar with the area of entanglement (Marras and Karwowski, 2006), as there are a myriad of roles that can be played in state or federal common law actions, workers’ compensation cases, allegations of statutory violations, arbitrations or mediations, government agency hearings, or citations involving Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Vinal, 1999). According to Health and Safety at Work (HASAW) Act 1974, which is legislation, it states that; it is the duty of the employer to carry out a risk assessment in the work place. Failure to this is regarded as a breach in the law and has its consequences.
2.5 METHODS OF UNDERTAKING ERGONOMIC ASSESSMENT
The fundamental goal of human-centred engineering is to match human characteristics such as body size, strengths and weaknesses, and capabilities and preferences with the relevant attributes of equipment, tasks, and procedure (Kroemer, 2006).
The different methods used in the assessment of ergonomics include;
I Physical methods
II Psycho physiological methods
III Behavioural and Cognitive Methods
IV Team methods
V Environmental methods
VI Macroergonomics methods
(Stanton et al., 2005)
All these methods make use of the following techniques listed below;
Assessing energetic capabilities
Assessing muscle strength
Assessing mental workload
Assessing vision capabilities
Systematic gathering of information
The ideal field assessment tools used should possess the following attributes;
Predictive: the tool should provide predictive measure of risk of musculoskeletal injury,
Robust: can be used in any work situation,
Inexpensive: tool can be available at minimal monetary cost,
Non-invasive: should not affect when worker performs or process work flow,
Quick: assessment could be performed quickly,
Easy to use: tool could be used with minimal training,
(Marras and Karwowski, 2006).
3.1 INTEGRATED ERGONOMICS ASSESSMENT FOR THE WORK STATION
For the purpose of this assessment to be done, several protocols would have to be met. The first thing that would be done is to get a work station that can be used to carry out an ergonomics assessment, and the Help Desk in the Learning Resource Centre (LRC) has been selected. A proposed meeting was set up with the Manager of the LRC to get permission to carry out the assessment, the manager approved of this and forwarded necessary messages to the supervisors in the LRC who helped in completing the task. A confidentiality questionnaire was handed to one of the supervisors, which was filled and returned and would be used as a point of reference in the results. Using anthropometric method of ergonomic risk assessment, measurement of the work station would be taken using a measuring tape and pictures snapped for further evidence of the work station for ergonomics assessment. Ergonomics assessment on the work station would be done on the basis of the task carried out. The task carried out in the Help Desk in the LRC involves helping students use the computer systems to locate books in the library and helping to arrange books in shelves. For this reason, there is the need to alternate between sitting down and standing. Below is a chart that shows a plan on how the work would be carried out.
Ergonomics Assessment Evaluation
Control and monitor
Chart 1: Flow Plan on the methodology of the ergonomic assessment.
4.0 RESULTS AND RECOMMENDATION
The particular work station selected for this ergonomics was carefully observed for the different task carried out to see if there is any problem associated with the work place. Anthropometric technique was used to carry out this work by getting measurements of the work place.
4.1 OBSERVATION: The help desk offered assistance in carrying out this work after permission was granted by the Manager of the LRC. Looking carefully at the way work was done and asking questions from the staff being monitored were put into consideration, also photographs were taken to also get a clear picture of how the employee carries out the task.
Fig 1: A Staff carrying out her duties on a Visual Display Unit.
4.2 HAZARD IDENTIFICATION: hazard identification was obtained mainly by asking questions from the employee on the work station, making use of a questionnaire and viewing the work station for possible activities that may cause health disorder(s) and affect the employee. Health and Safety at Work (HASAW) Act 1974 demands that the employer should make sure that employers carry out a risk assessment in the work environment to ensure safety of staffs. See result in table 1 below.
Table 1: Hazard Identification on the help desk.
Stooped posture (resulting from fatigue and long hours of working)
Stiffness of the back, neck, and wrist from working too long on the Visual Display Unit
Variety of health problems, like caved shoulders, muscular imbalances, rounding of the upper back and a tendency to lean forward while walking.
Incidence of lower back disorders.
Twisting of the waist, neck, stretching the hand and holding in that position for a long time (straining muscles in the hand)
Pain and strain on neck muscles and waist.
Stress on muscles of the arms while stretching causes fatigue of the arm muscle.
Visual Display Unit (VDU), keyboard and mouse.
Fixed position of the neck when staring at the VDU, and stress on fingers from too much typing, twisting and flexing of the wrist when handling the mouse.
Makes the employee aware of some eye defects that he/she was not aware of. Straining of the arms to reach the mouse and twisting of the wrist to get to the keyboard and grabbing the mouse.
4.3 ERGONOMIC ASSESSMENT:
Ergonomics assessment on the work station showed that the design of the station has a moderate score as it accommodates the employee and has a low risk level. Below is a table of the total ergonomic risk factor and how it was derived.
Table 2: Ergonomic Work Position Evaluation.
Assessed by: Igho Date:14/12/2010
Ergonomic Evaluation Risk Factor Static Points Comments/Action
Work Positions (Sitting)
0 pts 2 pts 4 pts
√ if 20 secs +
X 3 if static
Neck (Flexion) bending head forward
Shoulders (Raising elbows)
Back (flexion) bending forward at the hips
Twisting (incorrectly with feet stationary)
Table 3: Task factor Evaluation
Low √ Moderate High
Low √ Moderate High
Good √ Fair Poor
Comfortable √ Warm/Cool Hot/Cold
Table 4: Risk Factor total on the work station.
Risk Factor total Risk Factor Points Total Comments/Action
0 pts 2 pts 4pts
0 – 7 8 – 15 16 pts+
0 – 8 9 – 15 16 pts+
Moderate (4 – 7)
0 – 7 8 – 13 14 pts+
Low (0 – 3)
Table 5: Key Descriptor
Little or no complaints of muscle aches and pains
Taking of short time breaks
Stress and fatigue on muscles which is tolerable
Selection of an employee to monitor how tasks are being carried out
Work Musculoskeletal disorder, static load on muscles leads to painful fatigue on muscles
Reduction of work that can cause musculoskeletal disorder and training of staffs to become more aware of ergonomic risk factors related to musculoskeletal disorders.
Below is a sketch on the work station used in the LRC, measured in cm.
96cm 48cm 72cm
Fig 1: Sketch and measurement of the work station.
The sketch above can be compared to the British standard dimension to know if the measured work station meets up with the standard.
Table 6: Work place measurement compared with British Standard Dimension
Measured Work Station
British Standard Dimension (5th – 95th Percentile (mixed Population 19 – 65 yrs)
Table Height (Popliteal height + Sitting Elbow height)
Sitting Shoulder Height Position
Based on the production of a well ergonomically equipped work station, a good control and review of the work station, and everything put in order, information and training of employees there may still be a problem that can pose as a threat to the work place. This can be seen in workers habit; sitting forward on the chair, sitting in the middle of the chair, leaning on arm rest and back rest, arms resting on the table are some examples of employees habit, and this can result in intervertebral disc injuries and back problems as the muscles of the back are easily stressed.
CONTROL AND MONITORING
To control occupational health and safety risks, improvement of performance and benefits in work places in order to eliminate or minimize risk to employees and other interested parties exposed to risks associated with its activities, it is necessary to implement, maintain and continually improve occupational health and safety in the work place.
The following can be used to control and monitor on-going activities and tasks in the work place;
Avoid Unnatural Posture: bending the trunk/head sideways is more harmful than bending forward
The working area should be located so that it is at the best distance from the eyes of the operator.
Hand grip, materials and tools should be arranged in such a way that the most frequent movements are carried out with the elbows bent and near to the body.
Manipulations can be made easier by using supports under the elbows, forearms or hands. Padded/soft warm materials that can be adjustable to suite people of different sizes.
It is essential that the workplace should be suited to the body size and mobility of the operator/employee, since neutral/natural postures and movements are a necessary part of efficient work.
Neck and head posture: head and neck should not be bent forward by more than thirty degrees when the trunk is erect, else fatigue and troubles may occur.
Having seen that ergonomically, the work station is tolerable, and staffs have been informed on how to position themselves whilst working, there is need to review work practice every three months to ensure and enforce that the mode of working is still in place to avoid injuries that may have built up with time.
After measuring the work station and comparing with the British standard measurement, it is recommended that the chair (adjustable) should be adjusted to fit the user so as to get the comfortability needed in order not to stress and strain muscles in the back and feet. The mouse and Visual display unit should be ergonomically put in place to the comfort of the operator, to reduce tension and strain to the eyes, hands and wrist
ERGONOMICS POLICY AND CONCLUSION
5.1 ERGONOMICS POLICY:
The purpose of this policy is to endeavour staffs to adhere to guidelines in the work place with the aim of ensuring a safe working environment as well as to bring health hazard to a minimum. It is the management’s responsibility to carry out duties under the Health and Safety at work Act 1974 and other legislation including amendments to ensure safe working practices and work environment. For this reason, the help desk shall abide to the following guidelines;
Ergonomics efforts shall be embedded, maintained and preserved on the help desk in Learning Resource Centre (LRC) to ensure a safe and healthy work place environment for employees.
Cooperation of work force in making sure that ergonomic improvement is realised. (Joint effort of managers, supervisors, employees and other supporting staffs)
Designation of post to a responsible employee to check that workers are well positioned, to prevent Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders in the work station.
Training of staffs to be more aware of ergonomic risk factors related to Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Informing staffs about ergonomics and its risk factors can help to reduce cost of treatment of Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders, as the budgeted cost can be used as employees’ benefits.
This policy would be implemented and reviewed three times a year to ensure that the health conditions of the employees are in order, to reduce money spent on treating employees for work related musculoskeletal disorders. This policy would be handed to each staff through information and trainings and in written form.
After a thorough ergonomic examination of the help desk in the LRC, and assessing the working environment, proper ergonomics evaluation was done and control measures put in Place as well as a policy for the safety and health of the employees so as to reduce chances of the risk of having a staff complain about a work related musculoskeletal disorder. Control measures used after ergonomic assessment and risk validation was carried
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out is to help in reducing the chances of getting a work related musculoskeletal disorder and cost of treatment from injuries sustained (if any at all, considering the tolerable amount derived from the evaluation and chances of any injury sustained, this is as a result of proper training of the staffs).
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