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 to accommodate a varied range of body types.
Poorly designed work stations and poor working practices can 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 which are preventable. These injuries predominantly occur when employees work in awkward postures for extended periods of time or at tasks that require repetitive motions.
Understanding basic ergonomic principles is essential for prevention of injuries. Each employee needs to understand the ergonomic risk factors related to his or her work tasks and solutions to minimize such risks. The main risk factors are 1) forceful exertions, 2) repetitive motions, 3) awkward posture, 4) static posture, 5) compression or contact stress, 6) poor lighting, 7) vibrations, 8) high noise levels, and 9) cold temperatures.