Ergonomics is a science of designing equipments, and work place in such a way that the worker finds comfort as he does his duties. There is a need of a proper ergonomics design in order to prevent some repetitive strains and injuries in the process of delivering the needed services. If this is not done there is a likelihood of a worker suffering from long term disabilities. The International Ergonomics Association has defined ergonomics as a discipline that is concerned with understanding of the interactions that exist between human beings: the workers and the other elements of the operational system and among the profession applying the theory data, principles and methods in design so that there will be optimization of the workers wellbeing and of over the entire system (IEA, n.d.).
There are two major goals behind the establishment of ergonomics; to insure that health of the workers is observed and to ensure optimized production from the employees. Ergonomics is seen to be relevant in designing of things such as interfaces to machine and safe furniture. Ergonomics has a responsibility to put people in the forefront; give the workers the first priority, while taking into account their capabilities as well as limitations. The central aim of ergonomics is to ensure that tasks, information, environment and equipments are suitable for every worker (HSE, n.d.).
Among the many factors that ergonomics considers are
The job that is being done and the expectations from a worker, the tools or equipments that are used which have to consider the shape, size, and its appropriateness in relation to the tasks, the information that is used; how is that information accessed, presented or changed? The physical and atmospheric environment which will include the humidity, temperature, noise and vibration, the social environment of the workers: supportive management, fair treatment and team work (HSE, n.d.).
All the physical aspects of a worker should be put into consideration in preparation for a workers conducive environment. Such aspects may include; body shape and size, posture, fitness and strength, the senses; most importantly the vision, touch and hearing, and the strains and on joints, muscles, and the nerves. The psychological aspects of a worker should also be looked into which include: personality, mental abilities, knowledge and experience (HSE, n.d.).
Impact Ergonomic on Safety
Ergonomics reduces accident potentiality
When ergonomics is applied in designing a working environment for the workers it facilitates to reduction of likelihood of accidents. For example when one is designing a control panel, there are several factors that needs to be put into consideration, such factors may include:
The location of the buttons and the switches- if switches are placed in such a way that they can be accidently knocked on and off, such would lead to sequence of events that may end up as fatal accidents.
b. Expectations of signals and control- majority of workforce are likely to interpret a green light as an indication of a safe condition, if such is not employed and a green color is used as a sign of alarm, then the subject may find themselves in life threatening situation after ignoring the green light.
c. Information overload- man unlike a computer can not handle too much information at the same time; if man is bombarded with too much information there is high likelihood of panicking or confusion, this can become hazardous and risky to the safety of the worker as well as the rest of the workers. Some industrial processes calls for optimum sobriety whereby slight confusion or application of the wrong formulae can lead to lose of lives. Such an example is in chemical industries whereby if the ratios for the chemicals are wrongly mixed it may lead to a burst. Workers should be provided with a comfortable environment to ensure they optimally concentrate in their tasks.
Bad ergonomics causes potentiality of disasters and problems in work places. It's incumbent for any organization to ensure that the employees are provided with a safe working environment. For example in a banking sector there is need to ensure that guards are strategically placed to ensure the safety of the workers, if the workers are not sure of their safety, they are most likely to deliver less for their concentration is divided between the danger they are exposed to as well the demand to serve the clients. The alarms should be fit and ready for use incase an issues demanding attention of the authorities crops up. The morale of the employees is reduced if they are not sure of their safety hence affecting the very reason for their presence in the work place; to work.
Provision of adjustable workplace
Having an adjustable work station plays a great role in improving the safety of the worker. There are some work stations that employees operate in shifts, the employees do not have equal body sizes, shapes and heights hence if there is no adjustable work station then an employee may strain risking his/her safety. If the work station is adjustable and therefore suitable for diverse employees the workers are likely to optimally deliver and are kept safe from hazards that may develop incase of an otherwise. During the working time the work station should be adjustable such that the employees can do their work while sitting or standing. The worker can change the position frequently without using too much time in the adjustment. Such will reduce fatigue and the risk of musculoskeletal disorder. The future of a worker is hence not threatened by any disabilities.
Allows workers participation
Tyson has argued that ergonomics is more than just a mare application of data. Ergonomics ought to mandate the involvement of the workers in the process of designing the equipments or machine that they will be using. In a situation where the manufacturer of a piece of equipment does not have the slightest idea how the equipment will be used, the equipment exposes the safety of the worker into jeopardy; this is because the manufacturer may design the equipment is such a way that the user can not adjust it to suit him, this will tamper with the suitable posture consequently leading to long term effects (Tyson, n.d.).
Allows for airtime to render workers views
Ergonomics requires that the workers to have an access to the supervisors where they can air their discomforts. There is no safety if the supervisors do not respond to the workers concerns, if the workers are not involved in the affairs of their departments, if they are not consulted, given feedbacks or informed on decisions that will affect his safety. For an organization to be considered ergonomic safe, there people should be involved, consulted, communicated to and listened to.
Safety inspection programs
Ergonomics has provided workers with a better working environment through heightening of safety measures. Work stations are required to provide the workers with safety inspections programs. Once in a while the work stations are checked to ensure that the working environment does not pose any danger to the workforce (OSHA, 2008).
Through the ergonomics programs the employers have invented emergency action plan. This plan is utilizable in times of menace. For example if a fire erupts in a factory there should be an emergency action plan that will be used to ensure the safety of the employees without any unnecessary delay that will pose threat to their lives (OSHA, n.d).
Provision of Personal Protection Equipment
Ergonomics also demands that employees be provided with the personal protection equipment program (PPE). OSHA requires that all employees be provided with PPE so as to reduce the employees' exposure to hazards while on administrative controls or in engineering works that may pose any risk. In case any exposure is allowed it should be to acceptable levels. For example it's not safe at all to be working on a top of a building without a helmet, but it poses no great danger to work paint the inside of a room without one. The employer should determine whether his/her employees are in need of PPE or not. A PPE program addresses the present hazards; which include the selection, maintenance, and the utilization of the PPE. It also involved the training of employees while monitoring the program so as to ensure that it's running effectively. The workers feel more comfortable as they offer their services since they are provided with safety measure to a grand degree. The PPE should focus towards eliminating the employee from any recognized hazards which may cause or is likely to cause serious physical harm or death. The employer is required to comply with occupational safety as well as the health standards (OSHA, 2009).
Lockout measures provision
In the pursuit of safety measures for the employees, the ergonomics has provided for lockouts as a measure to control the hazardous energy in work settings. This practice involves the safeguarding of the workers from unexpected startup of machinery or release of hazardous energy during maintenance activities or services. Compliance with lockout is perceived to control about 50,000 injuries and about 120 fatalities every year. Failure to comply with these measures, where need be, may lead to workers losing an average of 24 working days for recuperation. A study was conducted by United Auto Workers (UAW) to identify the effect of failure to comply by lockout requirement. The study identified that 81 out of 414 (20%) fatalities among their members that occurred between 1973 and 1995 had been caused by inadequate hazardous energy control procedures; the lockout/tagout procedures (OSHA, 2008).
Safety in Confined Spaces
Ergonomics has established the concern on the people working in confined spaces. Confined space program manages risks of workers whose activities are within curbed spaces. OSHA demands that confined space assessment and control program specifically for the work that is being conducted ought to be written for work in each and every confined space. It should include: advice on the way to identify confined spaces, identification of hazard potentiality existing at the beginning of the work, a plan on the method of hazard identification and control, a training program to ensure that all the workers are in confined spaces have means to overcome hazards, establishment of entry permit system, development of an emergency plan with equipments, and training for any unforeseen occurrence, establishment of an emergency response system, and having a program review that will be done annually or when there is a change of circumstance aimed at identifying the weaknesses that may be present or growing in the program so as to make the necessary amendments to the program such that it will offer maximum safety to the workers. In doing all this, the employer should have the employee in mind (OSHA, 1997).
Identification of Hazards
Ergonomics has facilitated to identification of hazards in a workplace; it's through ergonomics programs have been developed that will facilitate identification of problems in work place that may lead to jeopardizing the safety of the employees. It has identified the fooling guidelines: the employer should look for all the likely causes to a problem as well the most suitable solution to the challenge. For example an employer may realize that the work place is strenuous hence some little adjustments should make it safer and easier to perform. Some examples of adjustment that could be done may include: Elevating of a platform hence helping operators to easily reach badly positioned controls, remove obstacles in the work place creating sufficient room for working etc. Identification of a likely problem is also done through interaction with the employees whereby they will express their fears, discomforts or any problem they are facing and how it's affecting their health, their safety and their performance. The employer also ought to asses any frequent errors emanating form the working conditions. This information will be put into consideration while designing a safe environment for the workers. There should be a program that keeps all records of workers sicknesses, absenteeism, the staff turn over and analysis of the data so as to identify the safety measures that needs to be employed to improve the working conditions (HSE, n.d.).
Its incumbent for every employer to provide an employee with a conducive environment that will ensure optimal and healthy performance. It has been identified that the prevailing working conditions determine the production of the personnel; therefore if a worker is uncomfortable in his/her work environment, there is a high likelihood of substandard performance. OSHA has identified standards that should be ensured in order to ensure the safety and health of a worker.
Ergonomics is employed in workplace with the aim of improving the safety and the health of the workers. The focus should be to fit the work to be suitable for the worker. Ergonomics puts the workers first taking into account the workers capabilities as well as their limitations. The equipments, tasks, information and environment should be suitable for each worker. Ergonomics has played a great role in facilitating the safety of the workers; there are many devices that it has employed in ensuring that the workers have conducive environment that will facilitate optimal production while ensuring that their lives are not at stake (HSE, n.d.).