National Safety Month, Week 2 Theme: Ergonomics

Repetitive movements, heavy lifting, bending, climbing, reaching and twisting can cause musculoskeletal disorders.

June is National Safety Month. The National Safety Council has designated a theme for each week. Ergonomics is this week’s theme.

Stacy Rose of our workplace safety team put together these tips for promoting a healthier, more productive workforce.

Tailor jobs to fit employees

Most of us are familiar with those nagging injuries that won’t go away. Maybe it’s a dull throb in our wrists or a slight pain in our lower back. It’s usually not serious enough to keep us from doing the things we want to do, so we don’t seek treatment.

Sometimes, those nagging injuries can be the warning signs of serious, job-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). MSDs include injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, cartilage and spinal discs.

MSDs are cumulative, so it often takes many years for the first serious symptoms to appear. By the time they do, you may have done extensive damage. What started out as a minor ache or pain can erode into a debilitating injury.

If you follow these tips, you can help your employees steer clear of MSDs.

Identify the risks

The risk factors associated with MSDs are common among most industries. They include repetitive movements, heavy lifting, bending, climbing, reaching, twisting, exposure to vibrations and awkward body positions. Whether your employees work in an office, an oil field, or on a construction site, they are susceptible.

Start by gathering some basic information. Review your accident records, looking for injury trends among specific job tasks, departments and workstations. Employee input should be an integral part of the information-gathering process. After all, they know their workstations and job tasks better than anyone.

Next, conduct an ergonomic analysis of each job task. Watch employees work, and look for possible risk factors. Consider videotaping the process or taking photographs to create a visual record.

Start employees off on the right foot

Once you have identified the risks, teach employees how to avoid them before you let them start working.

During their first day on the job, discuss symptoms of MSDs, such as decreased range of motion, swelling, redness and cramping. Review occupational risk factors and methods of identifying and controlling hazards.

One effective teaching tool is to demonstrate the safest way to grip a tool, lift a heavy load, use personal protective equipment and perform other job-specific tasks.

New employees and employees who have been off the job for an extended period may need time to adapt and build their strength. Provide designated rest periods to allow tired muscles to recover.

If possible, hire extra help to make up for increased production quotas and times when you are short-staffed. Regularly rotate employees among different job tasks to reduce the strain on specific muscle groups.

Make workstations adjustable

People come in all shapes and sizes. A good ergonomic program accounts for those differences by fitting the job to the employee.

Design workstations to allow employees to do their jobs from a variety of positions using safe postures. Every employee should be able to walk up to a workstation, make a few quick adjustments, and work comfortably and productively.

For example, an adjustable work surface allows employees to bring work to waist level, without bending. An additional light can reduce eye strain. An ergonomically designed keyboard can relieve strain on the wrists.

Get more information

For more information about preventing ergonomic injuries, visit the National Safety Council at and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration at


One Response to National Safety Month, Week 2 Theme: Ergonomics

  1. Nathan says:

    We’ve had people come to work for us who were prevented from making any changes to their set-up. This wasn’t out of malice or a control-freak boss, just a misguided belief that there was a universally “correct” way for a workstation to be set up. And, of course, there isn’t because no two humans are identical. Take me and my wife; I’m well over six foot and she’s only just over five foot. Clearly, the same set-up is not going to be comfortable for both of us and it isn’t practical to have two computers.

    And as far as businesses are concerned, the health of your employees should be important to you. I’d hope that it would be important because they’re fellow human beings but if nothing else, a sick employee isn’t an effective employee. You won’t be getting the best you can out of them. Not providing the proper equipment doesn’t make sense on any level; surely it’s better to make that initial investment into good workstation organisation than to have a workforce that’s constantly going off sick. Not to mention a workforce that doesn’t feel like its collective health is of any importance whatsoever to the employer.


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