by Carol Wynn, RN, BSN, COHC, CEAS
Occupational Health Nurse Manager

In recent years, the buzz word “ergonomics” has gained some much-deserved attention.  Many have heard the term, yet do not have a full appreciation of its historical importance or significance in today’s workplace.  The concept of ergonomics has Greek origins, with Ergon meaning “work” and Nomos meaning “law”.  It is notable that the principles of ergonomics have been around for centuries, while the emergence of large-scale manufacturing during The Industrial Revolution fueled its foundation.  The term “ergonomics” was initially coined in 1857, recognizing the relationship of the human body to work productivity. 

Although many business owners are familiar with the word itself, they remain confused about its authentic meaning, believing that workers must adjust themselves to the conditions of the work area to work effectively and safely.  In reality,  the work area must be blended to accommodate the needs of the employees themselves.  Matching the employees to the processes and equipment within the environment in which they are assigned to work is the fundamental premise.  And “fitting” each employee to the specific job assigned is increasingly critical as the workforce continues to age.

Human factors, coupled with universal design principles must be core components of an effective ergonomics program.   According to Nation’s Business Magazine, injury risk is 20% workplace design and 80% employee habits.  Successful business owners take into consideration not only the work environment, but also the physical capabilities and work habits of all employees.  It is crucial that management be present on “the front line,” observing employees performing the essential tasks during daily operations.  Active listening and being receptive to employee feedback are additional keys in enhancing safe and effective ergonomic strategies.    

The bottom line is that understanding the dynamics of the work environment and the potential risks for injury are essential.  Static and awkward postures, complicated by factors such as force, repetition, vibration and contact stress are disastrous recipes for injuries.  The results of ignoring the sound principles of ergonomics include decreased productivity, increased employee turnover and job dissatisfaction, employee fatigue and more injuries.  Profitable businesses can’t afford to ignore the costs and frustrations of doing things the “same old way.” 

How We Can Help
The EI Group, Inc. recognizes how sound ergonomics principles can turn your business around, increasing employee satisfaction, productivity, and morale. For more information regarding ergonomics as well as other occupational heath concerns, please contact Carol Wynn, RN at (919) 482-5281 or [email protected].