The University of Arizona


Risk Management Services

Ergonomics

Ergonomic Training/Education Resources–Computer Users

Web References

Equipment

The two vendors contracted by U of A for the purchasing of furniture are:

Laptop Ergonomic Tips

Ergonomic Training/Education Resources-Laboratory Workers

Web References

Equipment

Ergonomic Training/Education Resources-Material Handlers

Slide Shows

Web References

Ergonomic Training/Education Resources–Shop Workers

Equipment

Ergonomic Training/Education Resources–Food Service Workers

Ergonomics is the study of fitting the work/job to the individual. Ergonomics matches the design of tools, controls, and equipment to fit the safety needs of the operator. Since each of us has different needs, ergonomic design of tools, equipment, and workspaces must be adjustable enough to accommodate a varied range of body types.


Poorly designed work stations/practices lead to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs are disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs. Examples of MSDs include: carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff syndrome, De Quervain's Disease, trigger finger, tarsal tunnel syndrome, sciatica, epicondylitis, tendinitis, Reynaud's phenomenon, carpet layers knee, herniated spinal disc, and low back pain. MSD injury accounts for more than one-third of all occupational injuries and illnesses each year. Most of these injuries are preventable! These injuries mostly occur when employees work in awkward postures for extended periods of time or at tasks that require repetitive motions.


Ergonomics–Risk Factors for MSD

Understanding basic ergonomic principles is essential for prevention of these injuries. Each employee needs to understand the ergonomic risk factors related to his or her work tasks and solutions to minimize such risks. Following risk factors can lead to discomfort and injury.

  1. Forceful exertions
  2. Repetitive motions
  3. Awkward postures
  4. Static postures
  5. Compression or contact stress
  6. Lighting
  7. Vibration
  8. Noise
  9. Cold temperatures

Forceful Exertions
Forceful muscular exertions place high loads on the muscles, tendons, joints, and discs, and so are associated with most musculoskeletal disorders. Increased muscular exertion results in the increase of muscles fatigue. With increased muscle fatigue, time needed to recover increases. If recovery time is limited, soft tissue injury is more likely to occur.


Repetitive Motions
Repetitive Motion Injuries (RMI, also known as RSI, CTD, CTS) are a class of injuries and illnesses that result from weeks, months, or years of overuse of human joints. Connective tissues can become sore and sometimes unusable from repeated exposure to micro-trauma. Because of the slow onset of symptoms, people sometimes ignore the condition until the symptoms become chronic and permanent injury occurs.


Awkward Postures
Awkward postures refer to positions of the body (limbs, joints, back) that deviate significantly from the neutral position while job tasks are being performed. For example, when a person's arm is hanging straight down (perpendicular to the ground) with the elbow close to the body, the shoulder is said to be in a neutral position. However, when employees are performing overhead work such as installing or repairing equipment or grasping objects from a high shelf, their shoulders are far from the neutral position.


Static Postures
"Static work" refers to the musculoskeletal effort required to hold a certain position, even a comfortable one. For example, when we sit and work at computers, keeping our head and torso upright requires either small or great amounts of static effort depending upon the body positions we choose. Static force or effort refers to the amount of tension our muscles generate. For example, tilting your head forward or backward from a neutral, vertical position quadruples the amount of force acting on your lower neck vertebra.


Contact Stress
Contact stress results from occasional, repeated, or continuous contact between sensitive body tissue and a hard or sharp object. Contact stress commonly affects the soft tissue on the fingers, palms, forearms, thighs, shins and feet. This contact may create pressure over a small area of the body (wrist, forearm) that can inhibit blood flow, tendon and muscle movement and nerve function. Examples of contact stress include resting wrists on the sharp edge of a desk or workstation while performing tasks, pressing of tool handles into the palms, especially when they cannot be put down, tasks that require hand hammering, and sitting without adequate space for the knees.


Lighting
Lighting that is not appropriate for work task is a major factor in visual discomforts such as eyestrain, burning or itchy eyes, headaches and blurred or double vision.


Vibration
Vibration restricts the blood supply to the hands and fingers, which, depending on the vibration level and duration of exposure, can contribute to an ergonomic injury. Signs and symptoms of vibration-induced injury, such as Reynaud's phenomenon, start with occasional numbness or loss of color in the fingertips.


Noise
Noise is an often overlooked part of the working environment. Office machines, phones, and coworkers' conversations can be a distraction.


Cold Temperatures
Cold temperatures reduce the natural elasticity of the body and reduce the sensation of touch (tactile feedback). In order to get the same amount of tactile feedback, an employee may exert more force than is necessary.


Work Groups at Risk of Developing MSD

  1. Computer and Office Workers
  2. Food Service Workers
  3. Healthcare Workers
  4. Laboratory Workers
  5. Material Handlers
  6. Shop, Maintenance, and Custodial Workers
  7. Child Care Workers
  8. Cashiers

Warning Signs of MSD

Repetitive stress injuries often affect the hands, wrists, arms, elbows, shoulders, back and neck. If you suspect that you have a problem contact your physician. Some of the warning signs are listed below:

  1. Presence of tingling, numbness or loss of sensation
  2. Inability to make a fist
  3. Weakness
  4. Cold hands
  5. Lack of control or coordination
  6. Having to frequently self massage
  7. Pain or soreness
  8. Swelling, inflammation or stiffness in joints

MSD Hazard Control Methods

Engineering Controls
Engineering controls, where feasible, are the preferred method for controlling MSD hazards. Engineering controls are the physical changes to jobs that control exposure to MSD hazards. Engineering controls act on the source of the hazard and control employee exposure to the hazard without relying on the employee to take self-protective action or intervention. Examples of engineering controls for MSD hazards include changing, modifying or redesigning the following:

  1. Workstations
  2. Tools
  3. Facilities
  4. Equipment
  5. Materials
  6. Processes

Work Practice Controls
Work practice controls are controls that reduce the likelihood of exposure to MSD hazards through alteration of the manner in which a job or physical work activities are performed. Work practice controls also act on the source of the hazard. However, instead of physical changes to the workstation or equipment, the work practice controls include procedures for safe and proper work that are understood and followed by managers, supervisors, and employees. Examples of work practice controls for MSD hazards include:

  1. Safe and proper work techniques and procedures.
  2. Conditioning / training period for new or reassigned employees.
  3. Training in the recognition of MSD hazards and work techniques that can reduce exposure or ease task demands and burdens.

Administrative Controls
Administrative controls are procedures and methods, typically instituted by the employer, that significantly reduce daily exposure to MSD hazards by altering the way in which work is performed. Examples of administrative controls for MSD hazards include:

  1. Employee rotation
  2. Job task enlargement
  3. Adjustment of work pace (e.g., slower pace)
  4. Redesign of work methods
  5. Alternative tasks
  6. Rest breaks

Management's Role and Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of supervisors to prevent injuries and provide employees with appropriate training, tools, equipment, and assistance. In addition to regulatory obligations, supervisors have to deal with many challenges when an employee is injured in the workplace. These factors include lost productivity, recruiting, training, and paying temporary employees. To promote a safe and healthy workplace the supervisor must learn the ergonomic risk factors related to the job tasks performed by the employees. Supervisors must be able to evaluate the work places, provide training and ergonomically designed work stations and equipment for the employees. Early intervention is key to prevention or minimizing injury. Supervisors should respond to employee concerns and encourage employees to report any symptoms related to repetitive strain injuries as early as possible.


Employee's Responsibilities

Employees must be aware of the ergonomic risk factor and understand the basic principles of ergonomics and prevention of injuries. Employees should learn to observe bad work practices and ways to prevent them. Employees should report symptoms related to repetitive strain injuries as early as possible.


Ergonomic Training

Customized Group Training
Group sessions are the best training method for employees and supervisors, and often the most successful way of looking at specific problems and solutions in a work group. To schedule a group training there should be at least five participants. Please contact Risk Management Services (RMS) at least a week in advance.


Web-based Checklists and Slide shows and Other Resources
RMS website provides checklists, slide shows and other informative web references for those who are interested in self training and educating on ergonomics.


Workstation Evaluations

Workstation evaluations are carried out by RMS staff at the request of a supervisor or on filing of a relevant injury/illness report. After completing the evaluation, a written evaluation report with findings and recommendations is provided to the supervisor and to the employee.