At PeopleReady we often focus our safety efforts on active workers and safety equipment. Ergonomics is often associated with office workers, but many are exposed to risk factors such as - lifting heavy items, bending, reaching overhead, pushing and pulling heavy loads, working in awkward body postures and performing repetitive tasks.
According to the National Safety Council, about 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain during their lives with 31 million people experiencing low-back pain at any given time. Ergonomic disorders are classified as “musculoskeletal disorders” within the health community and are some of the most frequent reasons employees miss work, accounting for 33% of all worker injuries and illnesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
WHAT CAN COMPANIES DO TO KEEP WORKERS SAFE?
The Office of Safety and Occupational Health (OSHA) recommends several things to keep illnesses related to ergonomics at bay. They include:
- Regular, even short, breaks. Look away from your computer every 15 minutes. Get up and stretch every 30 to 60 minutes.
- Training so employees understand proper practices
- Assessment of the work place to determine if issues are present
- Encouraging reporting of issues early so they don’t turn into bigger problems
Many workers regularly lift boxes and other items. Doing so incorrectly, especially if done regularly over time, can result in serious back strain. To prevent strains, dislocations and muscle tears make sure you:
- Always stretch and warm up before lifting
- Remember to never twist or bend your back, and, keep your back straight
- Stand on solid ground with your feet shoulder-width apart
- Keep what you’re lifting close to your body
- Lift with your legs, not your back
- Don’t carry more than you can handle easily
- Ask for help to carry heavy, bulky or large loads
- Keep pathways clear of tripping hazards
Back strain in an office workplace is often caused by non-ergonomic work stations.
- Chairs have proper lumbar and arm support, and can be adjusted for height
- Feet are either flat on the ground or a footrest
- Computer monitors should be at least 18 inches from your eyes
- Your keyboard and mouse are at approximately elbow height
- Lighting is sufficient so you don’t have to strain, but not so bright that glare is an issue
PeopleReady’s safety team can provide support if you have questions about back strain or if your workplace is set up correctly. Also, OSHA’s website includes tips to assess workplaces. Be safe out there. It keeps everyone healthy.