Ergonomics In The Workplace





ERGONOMICS IN THE WORK PLACE


In the past, most businesses have strived for high production at low cost. This strategy resulted in the highest profit for a company. When in reality to many businesses, this was only a mirage. This was because the “lower cost” of the business usually resulted in a “higher cost” for the employees. This lower cost for businesses may have meant lower quality workplace items, lower salaries, less benefits, etc. These lower costs created an upset workplace environment for the employees. This upset has help found a new branch of science called Ergonomics. “Ergonomics is a relatively new branch of science which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 1999, but relies on research carried out in many other older established scientific areas, such as engineering, physiology, and psychology.” (http://www.ergonomics.org.uk/ergonomics.htm). Once it became clear that businesses needed to take into account the human environment factors that faced their employees it resulted in the discipline of ergonomics.
There exist many different things in the workplace that add to stress and injuries. They range from lifting heavy boxes to typing too much on the keyboard. However, the focus on this paper will be on the principals of ergonomics in the office and computer environment. Exactly, what is ergonomics? “Ergonomics, or Human Factors as it is known in North America, is a branch of science that aims to learn about human abilities and limitations and then apply that knowledge to improve people’s interaction with products, systems and environments.” (http://www.ergonomics.org.uk/ergonomics.htm). “The word, ergonomics, is derived from the greek words ergos meaning “work” and nomos meaning “laws”; therefore, we have the laws of work. Ergonomics can be further defined as the design of the workplace, equipment, machine, tool, product, environment, and system, taking into consideration human’s physical, physiological, biomechanical, and psychological capabilities.” (http://www.tifaq.org/ergonomics.html). As stated earlier, the focus of this paper is to concentrate on the factors of ergonomics resulting from office and computer work. One reason is because the world has been faced with an explosion of computer technology. As more and more work, education and recreation involves computers, everyone needs to be aware of the hazards of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), also referred to as Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD), to the hands and arms resulting from the use of computer keyboards and mice. This can be a serious and very painful condition that is far easier to prevent than to cure once contracted, and can occur even in young physically fit individuals. “Most CTD’s are preventable and curable if caught early. The key is to notice trouble when it starts – and do something about it. Early signs may include persistent pain, tingling, numbness, burning, or aching. The signs may be constant or may occur mostly after certain activities. The drastic cures --- such as surgery --- are not reliable and should be a last resort. Nevertheless, a health professional should be consulted when you are concerned about possible early signs.” (http://www.office-ergo.com/alternat.htm). There are also factors concerning who is more likely to get a CTD than others. “Some people get CTD’s because their bodies are vulnerable to them. For example, carpal tunnel syndrome seems to be related to diabetes, overweight, thyroid conditions, hormone conditions such as those caused by hysterectomy or removal of both ovaries, rheumatoid arthritis, previous injuries, and other conditions. Smoking may also increase the risk. Anyone with any of these conditions --- particularly obesity --- should be especially careful about prevention.” (http://www.office-ergo/com/alternat.htm). It is not uncommon for people to have to leave computer-dependent careers as a result, or even to be permanently disabled and unable to perform tasks such as driving or dressing themselves.
As computer use has increased, workers who spend long hours at terminals began to show signs of physical strain that had never before been acknowledged with desk work. Some complaints were headaches, backaches, neck and shoulder tension, wrist and hand injuries, eyestrain, and general irritability. These complaints led to the emergence of new scientist, called ergonomists, to concentrate on these new complaints and find ways of improving health. “Ergonomists use information about people, for example, their size (height, weight etc.), their ability to handle information and make decisions, their ability to see and hear and their ability to work in extremes of temperature. An ergonomist studies the