Why These Guidelines Are Vital To Your Safety While your job may not have the potential hazards found on a construction site or in a research lab, your work area can pose a risk if the potential hazards are not understood and respected. In an office environment, you may be exposed to risk factors that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders, the number one injury in the workplace today.
Ergonomic Risk Factors • Ergonomic risk factors are aspects of a job that can cause physical and mental stress. The leading risk factors for musculoskeletal disorders are: • Static or awkward postures • Excessive repetition • Compression on hand or sharp edges • Excessive force
Ergonomic Risk Factors Static Posture Static posture occurs when you hold the same body position for long periods of time. This lack of movement reduces blood flow to the muscles and tendons, decreasing nutrients to these body parts, which can contribute to fatigue.
Ergonomic Risk Factors Awkward Postures Awkward body postures place the body out of its “at rest” position. When awkward postures are assumed frequently or held for long periods of time, they can compress or extend muscles, tendons, and nerves beyond their capacity.
Ergonomic Risk Factors Repetition Repetition occurs when the same tasks or series of motions are performed over and over again, with little variation, and without adequate rest. This results in muscles and tendons becoming fatigued and strained.
Ergonomic Risk Factors Compression Compression occurs when repeated or continuous contact is made between soft body tissues and a hard or sharp object. This puts pressure on muscles, nerves, tendons, and other tissues causing inflammation and reduced blood flow.
Ergonomic Risk Factors Force Force is the amount of physical effort needed to perform a task. Tasks with high force place added pressure on the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints causing strains, inflammation, and injury.
Ergonomic Risk Factors Other Variables Other variables influencing the effects of risk factors include the duration, frequency, and magnitude of your exposure. Combining risk factors increases the potential for injury. Your physical condition, your age, and your lifestyle choices, such as poor diet, smoking, or use of alcohol and other drugs, can also influence the effects of risk factors.
Musculoskeletal Disorders Musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs, are the result of cumulative trauma, or repeated exposure to stress factors over a period of time. Damage can occur over months and even years before symptoms appear. Unlike a bleeding wound or a broken bone, there is usually no visual sign of injury.
Musculoskeletal Disorders Common symptoms of MSDs include: • Dull, aching sensations at a specific joint • Discomfort with certain movements • Tenderness to the touch • Pain and tingling in the thumb and first three fingers • A swollen feeling in the wrist • Weakness when gripping • An “asleep” feeling in the arm
Posture Research has proven that correct posture while standing or sitting is a significant factor in reducing the risk of suffering a musculoskeletal disorder. While there is no one “best” posture, the goal is to keep the body at its “at rest”, or neutral position. This means keeping the spine in its natural “S” shape and thearms below shoulder level.
Posture Using a mouse improperly is another cause of MSDs. Place the mouse at the same level as the keyboard, grip it tightly, and move your whole arm when dragging, not just your wrist. Be sure your wrist does not rest against the sharp edge of the desk or work surface.
Posture Placement of the computer’s monitor is also crucial. The top of the viewing screen should be at or slightly below your eye level. Use an adjustable stand or monitor riser if your workstation doesn’t allow for height adjustment.
Posture Other factors to consider when organizing your primary work zone include the tasks you perform and the frequency you perform them. Place items used frequently within easy reach. Eliminate the need to continuously raise your arms above shoulder level.
Recognizing Hazards You must train yourself to take notice of what is out of the ordinary, and to use all your senses: • Can you see any obvious hazards in your area? • Is there an unusual smell? For example, an electrical short may have a hot or burning smell. • Can you hear anything out of the ordinary? Is there an equipment alarm? • Can you feel anything unusual? Most often signs and symptoms of musculoskeletal disorders begin with slight twinges or small aches.
Recognizing Hazards A key to recognizing hazards is to know where incidents are likely to occur. Falls are one of the most common causes of injuries in the work environment. Leaving a file cabinet or desk drawer open can cause a fall; always close drawers immediately after use.
Summary The office environment may not have the potential hazards found on a construction site or in a research lab, but the risk for injury is very real. Know the ergonomic risk factors that may be present in your work area and follow the preventative measures outlined here to help avoid painful musculoskeletal disorders, the leading cause of injury in the workplace today.
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