Ergonomics in the work place simply means that you and your workplace are a good fit for a long-term relationship.
Always take a few minutes to assess any situation – be it a new desk and chair, moving a stack of boxes, or getting building materials off the back of a truck – to plan how to do it safely. Remember there is no such thing as being too careful with your body to make sure that you don’t succumb to RSI/OOS (Repetitive Strain Injury, now more often known as Occupations Overuse Syndrome) injuries.
Ergonomic set up and Ergonomic self-assessment and check list:
If you are experiencing any symptoms of RSI/OOS you can do a self-assessment starting with identifying areas where you are experiencing pain. This can be as simple as drawing two stick figures to show the front and back of your body and shading or circling where you are feeling pain.
You will need to take into account any medical conditions or prior injuries that may be contributing to the pain you are experiencing.
Different industries impose their own set of stresses and strains on the body. Below are a few things you can do if you work in a job that has the potential for RSI/OOS injuries:
It can be easy to forget that it’s not only those who sit behind desks for a living who are at risk of developing OOS/RSI type injuries. In fact those doing process work such as packaging on an assembly line, drivers, piece workers such as garment manufacturers, and other trade workers such as carpenters and hairdressers are all high-risk occupations.
Construction Industry and Tradies:
On building sites there are so many areas of potential risk such as high-powered tools and working at height that it’s easy to forget all the other OOS/RSI types of hazards that can lurk.
- Make sure that you employ good manual handling technique when moving equipment – bend your knees, lift with a straight back with the load as close to your body as possible.
- Always make use of mechanical aids such as wheelbarrows, trolleys and hydraulic equipment whenever possible to move heavy loads of gear and materials. At the very least, try to always use two (or more) people to move anything that is awkwardly shaped or heavy.
- Be aware of your body positioning to help reduce aches and pains. There will be times when awkward stances are unavoidable, so along with using good techniques, remember to also give your body a rest. Stand up straight and stretch out every once in a while if you have to crouch for some time. Give your knees plenty of padding if kneeling, or try squatting instead. Stretch your neck if looking up for extended periods of time.
- Make sure that you are wearing good quality, well-fitting steel-capped boots. Many injuries are the result of boots that are worn out resulting in slips or rolling injuries to the ankles.
- Along with the personal protective equipment (PPE) that must be worn, be sure to assess each working situation and wear any additional PPE that will reduce the risk to your health and safety. This can include earplugs, eyewear, gloves, respirators, and face masks.
Process workers – factory and manufacturing:
- Make sure that you are able to take a ten-minute per hour break from your work. Even staying at your workstation and changing tasks helps to break up the pattern your body has settled into and helps to make sure that you don’t succumb to OOS/RSI injuries.
- If your job requires you to stand at your workstation, make sure you have a rubber fatigue mat under foot, and try to move your stance from side to side as much as possible without taking yourself out of your optimal work area. Your joints need movement to make sure that there is enough fluid in the joint capsule; if you are standing in one spot all day this won’t happen and will result in stiffness and soreness.
- Hairdressers need to pay particular attention to body alignment. Move your body slightly to the side rather than twisting your wrist into extreme flexion positions when cutting fiddly angles like around ears.
- Try to keep your arms at, or below, shoulder height as much as possible.
- Use a stool where possible to take you down to the client’s height rather than bending forward all the time.
- Place your feet a little wider than hip distance and bend your knees a little when shampooing and learn good ‘hinging’ technique when bending forward from the hips.
- Above all, even though hairdressing is a fashion industry, do not fall prey to the dictates of fashion by wearing fashionable, high-heeled shoes every day. Make sure that you wear comfortable shoes that allow good postural balance.
In every work place making sure that you drink enough water every day is extremely important. A rough guide to follow is that if you weigh 58kg you need to drink nearly two litres of water a day – doing this your body will have enough fluid to keep all your muscles and joints working correctly and ensure good cognitive function.
- Take the time to adjust your chair and workstation. There are any number of resources on line to show you how to adjust your chair for optimal positioning of your hips, legs, feet, shoulders and arms.
- After getting seated comfortably, you will need to adjust the height of your computer monitor to make sure your head and neck are kept in a neutral position.
- If you find yourself straining your head forward, you may need to have your eyes tested. Tell the optometrist that you are a computer worker and ask for your mid-range focus to be tested.
- The humble computer mouse is the cause of a lot of neck and shoulder pain. If you don’t need the numeric part of the keyboard for your everyday work consider getting an alpha only keyboard so that your mouse arm is not constantly out to one side – or you could consider retraining your brain to use the mouse in your non-dominant hand – easier said than done!
- Try to always have the document you are working on directly in front of you between the keyboard and the monitor. If this is not possible, have a document holder placed close beside the monitor at eye height.
- Establish a good working triangle with your telephone and other frequently used equipment is placed at no more than arm’s reach on either side.
- There are many ergonomic aids available that you can make use of in the office. These can include computer monitor arms, a wrist supporting mousepad and keyboard, seat cushions and back support pads, and adjustable footrests.
Personal Risk Factors:
Young people often think that OOS/RSI injuries are only for old people and that ‘it’ll never happen to me’ – I’m sure everyone is familiar with the sentiment ‘21 and bullet proof’. Young bodies may not suffer quite so much from RSI type problems as they are resilient, and when injured do tend to recover quite quickly, but repeated injuries done to young bodies have a cumulative effect as the body ages. It’s never too early to ‘think safe, work safe’.
As our bodies age we need to be even more mindful of our physical limitation. No one likes to think that they are ‘past it’ or ‘over the hill’, but the western culture that we live in is youth oriented and this is particularly so in many workplaces. However, the older our bodies are the more likely we are to have an accumulation of prior injuries, all of which add up to the likelihood of debilitating, and possibly career-ending injury. It’s not an admission of age or failure to take a few minutes to assess the risk before starting any task. So many times it is something as inconsequential as bending over to pick up a dropped tool that can trigger a painful event that may take months to recover from.
Even if, after going through the self-assessment processes outlined above and consulting with your manager and WHS specialists in your workplace, you are still experiencing pain or difficulty please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us for an assessment.
It cannot be stressed enough that if you are experiencing pain, it should not be ignored, or brushed off with a “she’ll be right” attitude.
We offer a range of different modalities here at our clinic that can help you to come back from your injury and to maintain your recovery into the future.