Ergonomics is the science of fitting the job to the worker. Ergonomics is important in addressing musculoskeletal injuries that have contributed to rising workers' compensation claims. Such injuries cost American businesses $15 to $20 billion in direct costs per year. Once a person is injured, all of their daily activities may be disrupted. The goal of ergonomic implementation is to prevent injuries. This is accomplished through education about the risks and causes of injuries and encouraging self responsibility for good habits in posture, body mechanics, and exercise at work, at home, and during leisure activities.
Critical elements of ergonomics programs at work
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), ergonomics programs at work should contain certain critical elements:
- management initiation and participation
- employee participation and training
- hazard identification and information
- job hazard analysis and control
- medical management
- program evaluation
Controversies over ergonomics standards
There are many differing opinions about ergonomics guidelines.
- There are no "cookbook recipes" for solving ergonomic problems. Job descriptions, work environments, and people are all different and how each person interacts in their work environment can be very individual.
- How are ergonomic standards developed if workers have different tolerances to the same jobs? Critical causes of injury and critical elements of ergonomics programs have been identified and the guidelines must be adapted to situations individually. For example, it can not be claimed that a specific number of repetitions or lifting a specific number of pounds will cause injury; nor can it be said that a specific number of repetitions or lifting a specific amount of weight will definitely not cause injury. In other words, one situation does not fit all.
- Some employers fear that strict ergonomics standards will hurt them financially (possibly putting some small businesses out of business). Other people feel the standards are too loose and do not protect workers' health interests.
Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team