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What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics is the relationship between the worker and a product or working environment. Poor ergonomic design can cause pain, strains and sprains that mainly affect the back, the neck and limbs when carrying out work tasks. Sometimes these conditions are known as Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI).

Design and modify for safety

To prevent strain and injury, ergonomic factors need to be considered in the design and modification of any workplace projects.

Identify ergonomic hazards

A system needs to be put in place in order to identify ergonomic hazards, such as occupational overuse syndrome. We recommend creating a controlled checklist identifying all the tasks and work locations that may be exposed to ergonomic hazards.

Considerations should include:

  • Frequent or prolonged stooping, reaching or twisting
  • Prolonged use of force
  • Need to maintain an awkward position
  • Repetitive actions
  • Difficult actions
  • Tasks which need to be done in a hurry
  • Difficult to handle objects (e.g. hot, cold, heavy, large, awkward shape, sharp edges, slippery, etc)
  • Restrictions imposed by Personal Protective Equipment
  • Working environment factors (poorly lit areas, slippery floors, etc)

The outcome of your hazard identification process should be documented and kept on record.

Assess the risks

Determine the level of risk for each of your identified ergonomic hazards. We recommend considering:

  • Workplace and workstation layout
  • Duration and frequency of activity
  • Type of activity
  • Work organisation (work load, breaks, time constraints, length of shift, etc)
  • Skills, age, physical condition and experience of the worker
  • Individual factors (in addition to the above, any other factors which may apply to a particular individual)

The outcome of risk assessments should always be documented and records kept.

Reduce and manage your risks

Once the risks have been determined, control measures need to be implemented to manage and reduce ergonomic risks. These control measures can be related to:

  • Tasks

Varying duration and frequency, changing work rate, introduction of electronic monitoring, rostering, work breaks, control of working hours, etc.

  • Workplace or workstations

Redesign of furniture and arrangements, heights and distances, location of objects, improved lighting, workstation layout, ergonomically designed seats, benches and desks, etc.

  • Tools, equipment and objects

Ergonomically design tools in relation to wrist positioning, tools’ shape and size, shape and size of objects, etc.

Control measures should be prioritised in accordance with the hierarchy of controls and introduced after consultation with the employees concerned.

Raise staff awareness

Train your staff in ergonomic factors and ergonomically sound work practices. Training should include:

  • General awareness training
  • Training for target groups
  • Task specific training
  • As always, full records of all training should be kept

General advice warning

The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own situation and requirements before making any decisions.

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