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ErgonomicsErgonomics is an important term that once again is receiving a great deal of attention from safety professionals. Federal OSHA is again in the process of developing standards that would require every company to have an ergonomics program. What is ergonomics and how could it affect you? 


Ergonomics is the scientific study of human work. It considers the physical and mental capabilities and limits of people as they interact with tools, equipment, work methods, tasks, and the environment. The primary goal of an ergonomics program is to reduce work-related injuries and illnesses by adapting the work to fit the person, instead of forcing the person to adapt to the work. The idea of industrial ergonomics is to evaluate and control work conditions known to cause injuries and illnesses because of the xcessive demands placed on people. In other words, "Let's find ways to work smarter rather than harder!" 


It appears that the biggest challenge will be choosing the best ergonomic strategy to use for each particular situation. There are endless possibilities. A careful analysis of the situation should help in choosing the most effective strategy. As an example, let's look at just a few possible strategies to use in situations that currently involve manual carrying activity:

  1. Eliminate the need to carry. This may not be feasible, but it should be the first strategy to consider.
  2. Rearrange the layout of the task to eliminate unnecessary carrying. This could involve relocation of receiving, storage, production, or shipping areas. 
  3. Reduce the weight of the object being carried or increase the weight of the object so it is too heavy and has to be handled by mechanical devices. 
  4. Use mechanical handling aids such as forklifts, hand trucks, cranes, and four wheel dollies. 
  5. Assign the task of carrying bulky or awkwardly shaped objects to two or more people. 
  6. Eliminate tripping hazards with good housekeeping practices. 

Ergonomic SkeletonYou are encouraged to get involved and make suggestions to help in preventing injuries and illnesses by improving industrial "ergonomic" safety. Encourage employees to take part as they play a critical role in providing input process because they are the ones doing the work and are familiar with equipment, tools, and current work methods. An industrial ergonomics program will only be successful if everyone works together as a team to come up with solutions. By including the employees in the development process, they take ownership and are more likely to follow the program.


OSHA believes a large part of the initial ergonomics program at most companies will involve searching for ways to correct problems that have already caused injuries and illnesses. OSHA hopes the program will eventually focus on finding pro-active solutions to situations that could lead to injury if ergonomic issues are not addressed ahead of time. 

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