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Ergonomics in the Workplace

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is “the scientific study of the relationship between people and their working environment with a view to improving safety, ease of action and efficiency.”1

Goal of Ergonomics

The goal of ergonomics is to prevent ergonomics related hazards, which can contribute to musculoskeletal disorders. A musculoskeletal disorder (also known as MSD) is a soft tissue injury that can affect muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints and nerves2.

Causes of MSDs

In the workplace, specific things that can cause a MSD are:

  • Fixed or constrained body positions
  • Continual repetition of movements
  • Force concentrated on small parts of the body, such as the hand or wrist
  • A pace of work that does not allow sufficient recovery between movements

Signs and Symptoms of MSD

  • Inflammation
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Loss of function
  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Stiffness
  • Pain/tenderness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased grip strength

What can employers do?

  • Identify and assess job-related MSD hazards
  • Implement policies and procedures to reduce workers’ exposure to MSD hazards
  • Advise and train workers on MSD hazards in their jobs and workplaces
  • Encourage workers to report MSD symptoms or concerns to their employer/supervisor
  • Ensure preventative measures are working through re-assessments and follow ups

What can employees do?

  • Be aware of workplace health and safety policies and procedures
  • Report workplace hazards (including OHSA violations) to supervisor or employer
  • Know your rights to refuse unsafe work

References

  1. Ontario Ministry of Labour (2013). Prevent Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) in Health Care Workplaces. Retrieved from http://www.labour.gov.on.ca/english/hs/sawo/pubs/fs_msd_healthcare.php
  2. Mohawk College (2012). Occupational Health and Safety. Retrieved from http://www.mohawkcollege.ca/Page4882.aspx