Safety Tips Ergonomics Injury prevention Musculoskeletal disorders Office safety Wellness Workstations

Create an ergonomic work environment

Photo: halbergman/iStockphoto

Does your job require you to stand for long periods? Or maybe you spend hours lifting and pushing heavy materials. Perhaps you’re in an office environment and sit at a desk for hours while typing on a computer most of the day.

These situations are all considered risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders. “Musculoskeletal disorders are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, and spinal discs,” according to the National Safety Council. “They’re disorders that affect the human body’s movement.”

If you’re experiencing symptoms of an MSD, including numbness in the hands or fingers, tingling in your legs, pain, and more, it’s time to perform an ergonomic evaluation of your work environment: your workstation, the equipment and tools you use, and your job tasks. Look for awkward postures; too much sitting or standing in one position; repetitive motions; and exposure to heat, cold and vibration. (Need more information? OSHA has some suggestions and helpful resources.)

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After you identify your area’s risk factors, work with your supervisor to come up with improvements. Some suggestions from NSC:

  • Take stretch breaks.
  • Use anti-fatigue mats if you stand for long periods.
  • Alternate repetitive tasks with nonrepetitive tasks at regular intervals, and take frequent breaks.
  • Place your more frequently used tools and materials within easy reach.
  • Alternate between tasks that use different muscle groups – if you have to manually stack items, try to switch it up with some sedentary tasks, such as entering shipping data into a computer.

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