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What is an Ergonomics Program?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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An ergonomics program is a safety program for the workplace that is designed to help reduce job-related injuries. The program generally is centered on work-related muscular skeletal disorders (WMSD). These injuries often occur when the specific job does not physically fit the employee or in situations where repetitive motions might put excessive strain on bones and muscle tissue. An ergonomics program generally will implement tools or processes that help to alleviate these conditions. Depending on size and type of business, a national government agency that oversees working conditions, such as the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the United States, might require the use of these programs.

The first step for implementing an ergonomics program generally involves a review of the workplace by a consultant trained in ergonomic engineering. The consultant typically looks for potential risk factors and recommends specific adjustments to the way a job is performed or the tools used in the job. He or she also might be able to evaluate the costs of the necessary changes. Time lost by employees and actual medical costs that can arise from workplace injuries can sometimes be much greater than the cost of maintaining a safe workplace. A good evaluation will generally include a detailed plan and follow-up procedures.

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Many WMSDs might be avoided by simple and inexpensive changes, such as adjusting desks and chairs to better suit the height of the workers. In offices, the use of wrist supports and extra lighting might be suggested to reduce strain while doing computer related work. Other adjustments can be costly and might require a complete revamping of equipment or the work environment. Using forklifts instead of human muscle is one of the more costly but generally effective examples of ergonomic replacement.

In a large country, injuries that are the result of repeating specific tasks can cost the collective society enormous amounts of money in insurance benefits. These insurance claims can cause companies to have to pay higher premiums for worker’s compensation insurance. Many companies might choose to implement an ergonomics program to help reduce these costs, even if they are not required to do so by government regulations.

The more common job-related injuries typically addressed by ergonomics include back, neck and wrist injuries. Carpal tunnel syndrome, a swelling of tendons in the wrist and hand, is considered a common and costly example of WMSD. According to some studies, it ranks as the most common cause of lost work time. Many ergonomics programs take special care to address these injuries.

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