The Top 5 Ergonomic Terms

We thought that for today’s blogpost that sharing our Top 5 Ergonomics terms will give you a great start in this week. We will eventually be able to share with you a variety of different lists of ergonomic terms, so stay tuned for more installations in ergonomics terms.

  1. The Definition of Ergonomics: The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) represents the ‘gold standard’ for practicing ergonomics professionals. The entire definition is below. 
    • “Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.Practitioners of ergonomics and ergonomists contribute to the design and evaluation of tasks, jobs, products, environments and systems in order to make them compatible with the needs, abilities and limitations of people.Ergonomics helps harmonizing things that interact with people in terms of people’s needs, abilities and limitations.” Ergonomics Help
  2. Engineering Controls: Engineering controls are often the most cost-effective and the most preferred solution in the long-term because of its direct and positive effect on the user’s workstation and symptoms/ergonomic risks. These do not require ongoing administrative efforts and/or costs to ensure that they are adhered to. With these solutions, you basically change or ‘engineer out’ any ergonomic concerns that you may observe or measure during the workstation assessment. The focus here is to change the workstation to eliminate or significantly reduce the exposure to the identified risk factor. Compared to Administrative or Behavioural/Work practice controls, these do not depend on the user to follow safe working practices as a method of injury prevention. An example of this would be replacing the user’s mouse with a more neutrally fit one (if you are looking for resources here, check out our Product Reviews).
  3. Administrative Controls: In terms of hierarchy of ergonomic controls, administrative controls are less effective than engineering controls, but they tend to be more effective than Behavioural/Work Practice controls. This is because the ergonomic risk is not fully eliminated, rather administrative controls reduce the duration and/or frequency of the user’s exposure to the risk factor by optimizing the organization’s processes or procedures. There are many different options on how to implement Administrative controls. One example of this (relating to the previous mousing example), would be to change the organization’s written policies so that job rotation or job enlargement are mandatory in order to reduce each user’s total amount of time spent mousing. This method would reduce the user’s overall exposure to the risk associated with mousing.
  4. Behavioural/Work Practices Controls: Behavioural/Work Practice type of controls tend to be the least effective because instead of eliminating the ergonomic risk (via Engineering controls) or Administratively controlling the risk, the efficacy of this method is determined by the choices and habits of the user. Using these controls can add effectiveness to already established Engineering or Administrative controls, but it is generally advised that Behavioural/Work Practice controls should not be the sole ergonomic control for a workstation. An example of a Behavioural/Work Practice controls would be for the user to change the way that they hold the mouse to reduce their exposure to ergonomic risk factors. This may be implemented with a one-on-one review of behaviours within the user’s control such as the duration and frequency of rest breaks or pro-ergonomic postures.
  5. Definition of an Ergonomic Risk Factor: To start off, there is firm evidence that the presence of ergonomic risk factors can cause musculoskeletal injuries (MSIs). There are three main ergonomic risk factors, and they are:
    • Force: The human body must always exert some kind of force to move or manipulate an object, or perform a task. However, if the amount of force is too much for the tissues to handle it can cause damage. Muscle damage occurs in two ways:
      • From one single event that requires muscles to generate a very high force level; or
      • From repeated or prolonged mid-to-high level exertions that may also be performed in awkward positioning.
    • Posture: An awkward posture is defined by its deviation from neutral or optimal positions. Simply put, work is easier with more neutral postures. And, the greater deviated (flexed, extended, etc) that postures are from that neutral posture, the more risk that is introduced to the user. A neutral posture for most joints is near the middle of the full range of motion. Inherently, we all know that this is true. Take for instance trying to resist a force against your wrist; first with straight alignment of the wrist to the forearm, then with an awkward (bent/flexed wrist) posture. It takes a lot less effort to withstand that force with a straight/neutral wrist because it allows the muscles to function within their optimal range. Conversely, to withstand that force with a bent wrist will require a lot more effort and force. What all this means is that the more awkward a posture, the more that body area is exposed to ergonomic risk.
    • Repetition: High repetition is a risk factor related to work activities performed quickly and repeatedly. These require greater muscle effort to complete, and a consequence of highly repetitive work is that more rest and recovery is required for tissues to get back to within a normal or safe capacity.Ergonomics Assessment
Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!


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