Work Safe

Ergonomics

Adopting ergonomic best practices can help you avoid some of the most frequent workplace injuries. Start by familiarizing yourself with common sources of strain and overexertion. Then, take measures to eliminate the impact they can have on your employees.

Maintain Posture
With more sedentary desk jobs than ever before, many employees’ bodies are getting thrown out of alignment, resulting in short and long-term medical issues. Rounded backs, hunched shoulders and the tendency to lean toward computer screens are common habits to blame for bad posture. Here are some things you can do to make sure your desk environment is working to promote safe posture for your employees:

  • Position monitors 20 to 30 inches from the face, eye level at top third of the screen, centered straight ahead of the user’s eyes. Head, neck and shoulders face front, not bent or turned.
  • Allow plenty of space between the thighs and keyboard by modifying the chair or the keyboard tray.
  • Utilize a rolling, ergonomic chair, equipped with back support and ample padding. If there is no lumbar back support, substitute with a rolled towel or small pillow.
  • Utilize an ergonomic mouse, located to the immediate right or left of an ergonomic keyboard. Keep wrists and hands in alignment with forearms; not bent or resting on the edge of the desk.
  • Sit up with back and shoulders straight with a few inches separating the back of the knees and the edge of the chair.
  • Keep elbows down at the sides with shoulders and arms at right angles to the floor, not slouched.
  • Keep thighs horizontal with the floor and lower legs slightly perpendicular to the floor.
  • Keep feet comfortably flat on the floor or upon a foot rest.
  • Ensure clearance to stretch legs under the desk.

Encourage Stretching
Ergonomics encourages employees to stretch during and prior to the workday in order to increase circulation and boost energy levels, as well as take more frequent breaks. Whether employees are sitting at their desks or walking to the water cooler, there are several simple stretching exercises that should be conducted at least every few hours to avoid pain:

Wrists and Fingers

  • With the palm facing out, push the fingers downward with your opposite hand for a good, comfortable stretch at the wrist. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds and switch hands.
  • Make a fist with both hands and bend your fist in a comfortable, downward position. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 second.
  • Extend your fingers outward, spreading each finger as far apart as possible. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds on each hand.

Neck

  • Round the back and shoulders up with the chin pulled forward. Then, straighten the back, pulling the head back toward the spine. Hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Look downward with head turned slightly, looking at the outside of foot. Hold the stretch. Repeat three times and then switch sides.

Back

  • Place hands at the lumbar (lower back) area with palms facing down. Slowly bend backward at the waist as far as comfortably possible. Hold the position for 10 to 30 seconds.
  • Lace fingers behind the head, pulling the elbows apart and leaning the head back. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds, rest and repeat.

Shoulders

  • Roll the shoulders in a counter clockwise motion ten times. Repeat the motion ten times in a clockwise motion.
  • Lift shoulders upward toward the ears. Hold and repeat this stretch 10 times.

Ankles

  • In a clockwise motion, rotate each foot at the ankle three times and switch directions for three counter clockwise rotations.
  • Rest and repeat.

Reduce Eye Strain
Focusing on computer screens and documents nearly all day can lead to eyestrain and blurry vision—issues that can be lessened with a few, preventative steps:

  • Ensure monitors and keyboards are located straight ahead with the user’s eye level at the top third of the screen.
  • Adjust the brightness of the monitor to avoid overexposure to light.
  • Apply the 20/20/20 Rule: Look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes.

Promote Safe Lifting
The daily lifting of heavy loads is a constant threat to the spine, causing pain in discs, tendons and cartilage over time. Stooping and bending at the waist to reach items low to the ground are common causes of spinal injuries, the most injured part of the body. With ergonomic methods, employees can lift and lower items without risking their safety.

Ask the Questions

  • Do you need assistance? Ask for it.
  • Can you use lifting tools like carts, dollies, forklifts, hand trucks, or wheel barrows? Find help.
  • Do you need to lift the entire load? Try to break it down.

Survey the Load

  • Determine the load’s weight
  • Check for handles that could simplify the lift
  • Preplan safe lifting postures

Know the Plan

  • Plan the shortest path
  • Clear the route to avoid tripping
  • Set up a table or sawhorse along the path to place the load if a new grasp is needed
  • Know where to place the load
  • To avoid unnecessary bending, elevate the load by stacking empty pallets below it

Remember the Don’ts

  • Do not stand on the pallet
  • Avoid reaching over a pallet by walking around to the item
  • Change direction with your feet, do not twist the body

Make the Lift

  • Stand as close to the load as possible
  • Keep feet spread for balance
  • Squat, keeping the curvature of the spine
  • Grab handles or hold onto a sufficient grip
  • Lift with the legs, not the back
  • Hold the head up and chin out with clear view around the load
  • Carry the load close to the body

Lowering the Lift

  • Face the load’s destination
  • Bend at the knees, keeping the load close
  • Squat without twisting or bending the back
  • Release the load without dropping
  • Slowly return to standing position

Prevent Slips and Falls
According to Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, slips and falls account for the second highest worker’s compensation claim, representing over 15 percent of claim costs. An effective intervention strategy for slips and falls addresses:

  • Thorough custodial cleaning services
  • Building maintenance
  • Flooring installation of slip-resistant surfaces
  • Slip-resistant footwear

Protect Against Foot Injuries
No matter what industry you are in, foot problems can pose a threat to the safety, comfort and productivity of your employees. In fact, surveys suggest that two out of every three workers suffers from a foot problem. Foot-related injuries typically fall into two categories:

1)            Injuries from punctures, lacerations or crushing

2)            Fractures, strains and sprains sustained during a slip and fall

Working on hard floors, such as concrete, can take its toll with repetitive pounding that can lead to injury and fatigue. In addition, slippery floors can be particularly hazardous, contributing to slips and falls. To protect your work force against these and other types of foot injuries, take steps to:

  • Encourage frequent brakes and job rotation
  • Invest in flooring solutions that prevent slips and foot fatigue
  • Provide proper footwear

For other injury prevention techniques and footwear tips, download:

Tool Box Talk: Footwear for Concrete Floors

Prevent Shoulder Injuries
The shoulder is a versatile and vulnerable joint. Its complexity allows us to do so many things, but also makes it prone to injury from repetitive use and strain. By focusing on injury prevention you can work to minimize the impact of shoulder injury on your workforce. Here are some tips to share with your employees:

  • Exercise your upper body regularly to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder joint and boost flexibility.
  • Follow proper lifting techniques and other safe work practices designed to prevent shoulder injuries.
  • Avoid throwing or tossing objects.
  • Use care when positioning the body and back before even mild exertion during lifting.
  • Face the object to be lifted, and keep the back as straight as possible by bending and using legs for lifting power.
  • Do not reach to place or retrieve heavy objects stored up high; use a stable platform/step stool.

For more information on these and other shoulder injury prevention techniques, download Tool Box Talk: Preventing Shoulder Injuries.

Do you have questions about how Missouri Employers Mutual or the WorkSAFE Center can help your workplace? Contact us today to learn more about our resources and custom safety training.

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