Ergonomics is the science of adapting the workplace to meet the needs of the workers using it with the goal of increasing productivity and decreasing injuries and workplace inefficiency. It’s a discipline that can be adapted to virtually any field, from manual-labor intensive manufacturing to something as seemingly safe as office work. A number of organizations are dedicated to creating ergonomic guidelines and standards for industries, in order to protect workers and change working conditions for the better.
Preventing Workplace Injuries
The primary goal of ergonomics is to prevent injuries in the workplace. By proactively designing the workplace to work in tune with the needs of workers, employers can ensure increased productivity and worker satisfaction, with a decrease in potentially costly injuries and lost man-hours. A number of organizations have developed standards and regulation for ergonomics in the workplace, and as more is learned about how to prevent injuries in the workplace, more guidelines will likely develop.
Some of the most common risk factors for workplace injuries include:
- Heavy lifting
- Repetitive motions
- Forceful motions
- Prolonged exertion of the hands
- Cold temperatures
Over time, even something as simple as repetitive typing at a desk can lead to chronic hand pain that affects quality of life both in and out of the office. Not surprisingly, a number of organizations both public and private have stepped in to place industry regulations concerning ergonomics.
Organizations behind Ergonomics Guidelines
There are a number of governmental and private organizations which are dedicated to helping industries adopt ergonomic practices to protect their employees and increase productivity. Some of the organizations most associated with ergonomics guidelines and standards include the following.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for preventing occupational injuries and illnesses by setting and enforcing safety standards.
In 2000, OSHA set a number of sweeping ergonomics standards based on ten years of research. The administration had determined that approximately 1/3 of workplace injuries could be prevented by ergonomics statutes. However, the guidelines were never implemented due to congressional intervention.
OSHA has introduced several industry-specific guidelines for the following fields:
- Poultry processing
- Retail grocery stores
- Nursing homes
- Shipyard employment
The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is an organization dedicated to developing non-partisan standards for products and services in order to protect American workers and increase profits through standardization. The organization has a number of standards for a myriad of fields, although they have not been adopted as law and are therefore all optional.
The field of ergonomics is a burgeoning one, and more and more companies are realizing that adopting ergonomic standards may limit the number of man-hours lost to illness, injury, discomfort, and apathy in workers. However, for a number of reasons, there is little in the way of national standardization or guidelines for ergonomics. As the science of ergonomics continues to be more and more important, guidelines and regulation may become the norm.
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