Ergonomics is an applied science concerned with the characteristics of people that need to be considered in designing and arranging things that people use in order that people and things will interact most effectively and safely.
Not Just a Workplace Problem We encounter ergonomics wherever we go, not just on the job. Manufacturers have conducted a great deal of research in order to make car seats as comfortable as possible; to make airplanes safer; to fashion tools for the population that will use them and a host of other things. Currently there is no Federal OSHA ergonomics standard. Ergonomic problems observed in the workplace are citable by OSHA using the general duty clause at section 5, paragraph (a)(1) of the OSHAct.
Ergonomics encompass many different sciences such as:
Common Conditions Related to Poor Ergonomics Improper ergonomics can result in a number of conditions such as back injury, strains, headaches and various cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs). Some of the more common CTDs include:
- Raynaud’s disease
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
Other Ergonomic Concerns Back Injuries: Nearly 80% of Americans will experience back pain. The back, like the rest of the body, grows weak if it does not receive exercise. When the back gets weak it puts the worker at greater risk when there is a need to lift, push, pull or simply bend over.
To protect the back, workers should exercise but they should also be taught the proper way to lift materials. Although not widely used, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has published an equation which can be used to calculate a safe lift.
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It is estimated that 5.6 million or more workers are at risk for occupational exposure to bloodborne pathogens. OSHA requires employers provide training to any employee that has the potential to be exposed to bloodborne pathogens or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1030 (the standard) applies to all workers in the private sector, as well as civilian employees of Federal entities.