Ergonomic evaluation assesses how work affects various parts of the human body. These effects can be both positive and negative and are incredibly important in every type of work setting imaginable. In an industrial setting, proper ergonomics for the bodies of workers is crucial. It is imperative to evaluate the ergonomics of workstations, job tasks, and processes to determine if they can potentially negatively affect the workers’ bodies and remedy the issues in a timely manner.
This article will give you a basic, foundational understanding of the importance of ergonomics in industrial settings, as well as the types of ergonomic evaluations that can be performed, and the tools needed to do so.
Importance of Ergonomic Evaluation in Industrial Settings
The most important aspect of ergonomic evaluation in relation to industrial settings is the reduction of risks for workers. It can help reduce the number of first-aid incidents, injuries, and OSHA recordables. Improper ergonomics can lead to an array of negative health issues. These issues can range from musculoskeletal pain or disorders resulting from awkward postures, illnesses such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from overused body parts, and lasting effects that can stay with a person for the rest of their life. An ergonomically sound work environment brings greater comfort and satisfaction to a company’s workforce.
From a work standpoint, an increase in the comfort and happiness levels of employees can lead to an increase in work productivity and efficiency as well. For example, if an employee is working in an awkward position all day, productivity can suffer due to the discomfort and pain they are experiencing. If this employee is provided with an ergonomic workstation that allows them to work from a neutral posture, then the satisfaction as well as productivity levels of the employee may rise.
Types of Ergonomic Evaluation
There are several types of ergonomic assessments that can be performed to ensure that a workspace is designed with ergonomics in mind. The first type of assessment is to ensure that the bulk of an employee’s work is done in the proper work zone. Work zones are guidelines for the spaces within a person’s working area that are divided up based on ergonomics. Guidelines are given for which zones should be utilized for certain types and percentages of a person’s work.
The next type of evaluation is in relation to manual material handling risks. NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) developed the NIOSH Lifting Equation which assesses the risks associated with lifting. This equation takes into account the weight of the load being lifted, duration, frequency of lift, load location, and other aspects of the lift that can determine whether a lift is safe or not.
There are several other methods of ergonomic evaluation available for workspaces such as:
- Rapid Upper Limb Assessment (RULA): assess the shoulders, elbows, wrists, neck, and trunk for exposure to ergonomic risk factors
- Rapid Entire Body Assessment (REBA): evaluate the whole body for risks of musculoskeletal disorders associated with specific tasks
- Liberty Mutual Manual Material Handling Tables (SNOOK Tables) and Liberty Mutual Materials Handling Population Percentiles online evaluation tool: provide tables for evaluating lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling, and carrying tasks to reduce low back injury and disability
These assessments use data related to workstations, work, and workers to help determine potential ergonomic risks. This helps design workspaces that are as safe for the human body as possible.
Tools for Ergonomic Assessments
In addition to various ergonomic assessment methods, there are many tools that can be utilized to perform these assessments. The most basic of these tools is a tape measure or other measuring device. This helps to determine the measurements associated with a worker and their workspace and utilize these measurements for assessments. Force gauges can be used to determine the amount of force needed for a specific task. This is also true of push/pull gauges. Anthropometric tables can be used to determine the average body measurements for certain people groups and design spaces or tools that are as ergonomically efficient as possible.
Overall, ergonomic evaluation can be used in industrial settings to improve workspaces immensely. The right tools and assessments can be combined to identify ergonomic risks and corrective measures. This helps reduce injuries, improve productivity, and enhance overall employee satisfaction. Proper ergonomics in industrial settings can have positive effects that reach throughout the entirety of the company.
Ergonomic Evaluation Services
External resources are available to help companies conduct ergonomic evaluations, especially when work situations are complex. One of them is the Ergonomics Center of North Carolina State University, which specializes in ergonomic evaluations in industrial environments.
As an ergonomic solution provider, BOSTONtec can assist with selecting and setting up adjustable workstations that meet your specific needs. Reach out to us for a free ergonomic consultation.