Ergonomics is defined as “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment”, in that the equipment that is used should fit the task and allow for a person to perform to a high standard. A common injury due to a lack of ergonomics is Carpel Tunnel Syndrome which results from prolonged incorrect use of a mouse and keyboard.
Whilst one might have only heard of ergonomics in an office environment, it can also apply to manual work and tool usage. Read below to find out how injuries due to poor ergonomics can result from hand tool usage or strenuous working positions and the solution to these problems.
- Forceful exertion – lifting, striking, pushing, pulling or carrying. A risk is that a Musculoskeletal Injury (MSI) may be caused, especially when combined with repetitive movements.
- Incorrect posture and movement – such as extremely stretched out posture or being stuck in a bent over position for extended periods of time. These bad postures can restrict blood flow thus making muscles prone to injury.
- Heavy or uncomfortable objects – objects which are difficult to handle due to bulkiness or weight. This also includes tools that are heavy or are poorly designed.
- Contact stress and vibration – perpetual pressure from hard surfaces or sharp edges on a part of the body, this is common with office work as desk edge press on the wrists/forearm.
- Repetition, duration and pace of work – being in the same position for a continuous period, such as continually having to bend over.
- Poorly designed workspace – poor surfaces that are slippery, cluttered or poorly designed.
- Temperature – cold environment can mean that workers are likely to overestimate the amount of force required in an activity, whilst also making the body less flexible.
Good ergonomics – hand tool consideration
Workers must be given equipment which is suitable, comfortable, and used in conjunction with appropriate positions which minimise injury.
- Using anti-vibration power tools and equipment to reduce the damage to nerves.
- Ensuring that tools are in good condition and fit for use.
- Reduce gripping force/pressure to a reasonable level.
- Where possible, power tools should be replacing hand tools as hand tools require more exertion.
- Tool extensions can be used to avoid awkward body positions.
Find out more
Take a look at the HSE’s guide to ergonomics for some pointers and links to useful resources.
How can CRAMS help?
Risk assessments are a vital part of reducing injury in the working environment. Alongside this the appropriate method statements should accompany a worker in the completion of a task and aim to detail the ways in which a task should be carried out successfully – including the mitigation or elimination of any injury arising from a task.