Ergonomic hazards in the workplace can cause injuries and missed days at work. These hazards are the result of physical conditions you may face because of the tasks you perform, the equipment you use or the conditions you are forced to remain in throughout the workday. Knowing what to look for and how it effects you can help eliminate the issue.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the agency in charge of creation regulations that govern the safety of workers on the job. OSHA has developed guidelines to be followed for many industries and has created a blanket regulation for all those that do not have specific rules that pertain to them. In general, the agency ensures that employers take the steps necessary to provide a safe and hazard free environment for workers of all kinds. OSHA also informs businesses that have abnormally high instances of workplace injury and illness that changes should be made to bring the numbers under control. If your company is not following the rules, then OSHA is the place to go.
Some types of work lend themselves to injury due to the use of dangerous tools and equipment, required heavy or repetitive lifting, long hours in a standing position or other physically demanding actions. Construction, manufacturing and shipping are industries where lifting and machinery cause ergonomic hazards and injury. To prevent such hazards from affecting the work force, companies should provide employees with the necessary equipment such as protective gloves or wheeled and automatic options for the movement of heavy objects. They should also reduce the size and weight of the materials in question and help eliminate the instance of related injury.
The modern office may not be the first place you think of when it comes to workplace injuries, but there are many ergonomic hazards to be dealt with even while sitting at a desk. The simple act of typing can cause injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis. Extended periods seated in a chair can damage your spine and cause sciatica over time. Long periods standing or sitting awkwardly can harm your posture and cause all manner of skeletal issues and pain. To prevent ergonomic hazards from causing injury in the office, companies should provide a comfortable and supportive work space with suitable chairs and enough room for workers to be physically unrestricted. Try wrist exercises and breaks between long sessions of repetitive actions like typing to help relax muscles and tendons that may be susceptible to injury.
Cold temperatures can both exacerbate the effects of some existing ergonomic hazards and be one as well. Cold temperatures stiffen muscles, reduce flexibility and negatively affect your ability to feel what you are touching. All of these factors can lead to injury when working with dangerous materials or tools, performing physically demanding actions or just completing everyday tasks. The cold itself can increase your likelihood of illness. If you work in cold conditions outside or in, your company should supply you with warm hats, gloves and outerwear, as well as the equipment necessary to keep your hands from slipping.
Stresses caused either by the pressures you face at work or your interactions with coworkers can be among the most dangerous of the ergonomic hazards you have to deal with. According to the National Heart, Blood & Lung Institute, women in high stress employment have a 40 percent higher rate of cardiovascular disease than those who are not. The same study found that women who felt their jobs were not secure suffered higher cholesterol and blood pressure rates than those who did not. If you are stressed at work, you may be paying for it with your health as well as your peace of mind.
- The University of Chicago: Ergonomics
- Consultant's Update: Ergonomics in the Workplace
- U.S. Department of Labor: Ergonomics: Enforcement
- Centers for Disease Control: Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders
- U.S. News Health: OSHA's Safety Tests Protect Workers at Little Cost: Study
- The New York Times: Hazards: Work Stress Raises Women’s Heart Risk, Study Says
- Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images