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What is ergonomics and how can it protect you in the workplace?

Do you earn your income by spending your days on a Nebraska assembly or production line in which you have to perform the same motions repeatedly while you are in an awkward body position, or having to stretch to do your job? If your employer disregards workplace ergonomics, you might be at risk of suffering a musculoskeletal disorder. It could be carpal tunnel syndrome or one of many other diseases that cause chronic pain, repeated surgeries and time off work.

Ergonomics involve the adaptation of workstations, tasks, equipment and tools to suit the worker and limit physical stress while also eliminating potential MSDs that can be serious and disabling. Working on assembly and production lines typically involves physical strain, stress, overexertion and often exposure to excessive vibration, heavy lifting, repetitive motions and awkward body postures.

Steps to an ergonomically safe workplace

  • Assess and address -- Understanding the risk factors in every task in the workplace is the first step toward eliminating injury risks. This will require anticipating potential injuries and then adapting work environments and modifying tools to make each employee's task safer.
  • Add controls -- There are three levels of control to limit injury risks. Engineering controls include modifications to the layout of workstations, the design of tools, ease of access to tools and the assembly sequence. Administrative controls may consist of more frequent rest breaks, rotation of jobs and training to recognize indications of ergonomic stress. The third level of control is providing personal protective equipment such as vibration attenuation gloves, back belts and wrist supports. However, these measures will not eliminate injuries but merely limit the intensity of exposure.
  • Understand the needs -- A proper understanding of the dynamics of each task is essential before making modifications. Issues that management typically needs to address include work surface sizes and heights, supporting and comfortable chairs, access to bins and shelves that are often out of reach or too high, and hand tools that are awkward to handle.
  • Consider all aspects of workstation design -- The primary consideration in ergonomics is the reach zone of each workstation. The vertical and horizontal areas must be reachable with minimal trunk, head and arm movement. The height of seating for tasks in which employees work while seated must suit the job, and the same applies for workbenches. The positioning of computer monitors and keyboards also requires careful consideration. The best option might be to provide adjustable chairs, benches and more -- particularly if different shifts use the same areas.

What if your employer disregards ergonomics?

If you are not one of the fortunate workers whose employers recognize the advantages of preventing workplace injuries, you may develop musculoskeletal disorders that result in time off work and medical expenses. Fortunately, the Nebraska workers' compensation covers ergonomic workplace injuries, and you may seek legal counsel to assist with the navigation of benefits claims for financial assistance.

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